World military spending reached US$1.6 trillion in 2010, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says in its latest annual Military Expenditure Database, released today. This is a 1.3% in real terms over the year before. The region with the largest increase in spending was South America, at 5.8%. The figure for Africa was 5.2%, led by major oil-producers such as Algeria, Angola and Nigeria.
The Middle East spent US$111 billion on military equipment in 2010, an increase of 2.5% over 2009. The largest absolute rise in the region was by Saudi Arabia.
“This continuing increase in South America is surprising given the lack of real military threats to most states and the existence of more pressing social needs” commented Carina Solmirano, SIPRI Military Expenditure Project Latin America expert. Part of the explanation for this is to be found in the strong economic growth the region has experienced in recent years, while in other regions the effects of the global economic recession caused military spending to fall or at least rise more slowly in 2010, SIPRI noted in a media statement to announce the research.
It adds that although the rate of increase in US military spending slowed in 2010 – to 2.8% compared to an annual average increase of 7.4% between 2001 and 2009, the global increase in 2010 is almost entirely down to the United States, which accounted for US$19.6 billion of the US$20.6 billion global increase.
A “media backgrounder” added that even in the face of efforts to bring down the soaring US budget deficit, military spending continues to receive privileged treatment. President Barack Obama’s FY2012 budget announced a five-year freeze on non-security-related discretionary expenditure, but
military spending, along with other security spending such as intelligence and homeland security is exempt. Such cuts as may occur are likely to be due to the end of the US troop presence in Iraq and the gradual drawdown from Afghanistan, rather than to cuts in the “base” defence budget. Taken together, these figures suggest that the US continues to prioritise maintaining its overwhelming military power as the basis of its security and status.
Projections from the White House Office of Management and Budget (based on the US Administration’s Defense Budget Requests for Fiscal Year 2011 and 2012) show another large increase in outlays this year, followed by a decrease in the next (2012) – the latter resulting from the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq—but with spending still about 4% higher in real terms in 2012 than in 2010. “However, ongoing budget disputes between the administration and the Congress mean that the picture for 2011 and 2012 is highly uncertain,” the backgrounder says.
“The US has increased its military spending by 81% since 2001, and now accounts for 43% of the global total, six times its nearest rival China. At 4.8% of GDP, US military spending in 2010 represents the largest economic burden outside the Middle East’, adds Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, head of the SIPRI Military Expenditure Project. The 2010 increase is almost entirely down to the United States, which accounted for US$19.6 billion of the US$20.6 billion real-terms increase. Excluding the US, the total in the “rest of the world” barely changed in 2010, increasing by a statistically insignificant 0.1%. Perlo-Freeman adds that the 1.3% increase in military spending is the lowest since the surge began after 2001. Between 2001 and 2009, the annual increase averaged 5.1%.
In many cases, the falls or slower increases represent a delayed reaction to the global financial and economic crisis that broke in 2008, SIPRI added. In Europe, where military spending fell by 2.8%, governments began to address soaring budget deficits, having previously enacted stimulus packages in 2009. Cuts were particularly substantial in the smaller, more vulnerable economies of central and eastern Europe, as well as those with particular budget difficulties such as Greece.
In Asia, even though most economies did not experience a recession, economic growth slowed down in 2009 while military spending continued to rise rapidly. Thus, a slower increase of 1.4% in military spending in 2010 partly readjusts growth in military spending to economic growth rates.
The Chinese Government, for example, explicitly linked its smaller increase in 2010 to China’s weaker economic performance in 2009,” SIPRI added.
Africa & ME
SIPRI estimates total military expenditure in Africa in 2010 was US$30.1 billion with US$10.6 billion spent in north Africa and US$19.5 billion in sub-Saharan Africa. Spending increased by 5.2% per cent in real terms over 2009 (5.6% in north Africa and 4.9% in sub-Saharan Africa) and by 64% compared to 2001 (69% in north Africa and 61% in sub-Saharan Africa). Four of the continent’s five top spenders – Angola, Algeria, Morocco and Nigeria – accounted for the bulk of the increase, while spending in the fifth, South Africa, fell slightly in real terms.
The Stockholm think-tank adds Angola’s 19% real-terms increase, or US$600 million in 2009 prices, was the major determinant of the trend in Africa. This was partly offset by another large
fall in Chad from the oil-fuelled heights of 2008. It notes the increases in Angola, Algeria, Nigeria and the decrease in Chad were influenced by trends in oil and gas revenues. (It warns though that for Africa and its subregions some estimates are “uncertain” due to missing data for some countries, most notably Sudan, Libya and Eritrea.
Estimated total military expenditure in the Middle East in 2010 was US$111 billion, an increase of 2.5% in real terms over 2009, SIPRI says. Military spending in the Middle East was around 35% higher in real terms in 2010 than in 2001. Most of this increase occurred during the period 2002–2007, since when spending has been essentially flat. The largest absolute increase in the region in 2010 was by Saudi Arabia (by US$1.6 billion in constant 2009 prices), while the largest relative increases were by Iraq (12%) and Lebanon (9.7%). The largest fall was by Oman (by 9.8%).
Military expenditure estimates in the Middle East for 2009–10 are also subject to considerable uncertainty due to missing data for some countries. The most important country for which data was missing in 2010 was Iran, SIPRI warns. A media report claimed that the budget for the armed forces increased by 20 per cent to 90 trillion rials (US$9 billion), while that for the Revolutionary Guard Corps was 58 billion rials (U$5.8 billion). “However, SIPRI has been unable to verify these
figures or compare them with previous data from other sources.”
A further source of uncertainty regarding Middle Eastern military spending is the very low level of transparency, SIPRI laments. In most cases, even when data is reported, only a single total figure is given. In Egypt, for example, where official figures for military spending have fallen slightly in recent years, the military budget is reported under the category “various functional activities”. It is also likely that in many cases official figures exclude off-budget spending, in particular for arms purchases.