Defence budget vote set for Friday

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The National Assembly will Friday debate Vote 19 – Defence and Military Veterans.

The debate was scheduled for last Friday but was postponed at the request of Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans chairman Mnyamezeli “Nyami” Booi to allow Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and senior officials to brief MPs.

The briefing is set for tomorrow.

The Democratic Alliance has complained that it “will be impossible to evaluate the effect of this financial year`s R32 billion budget on the effectiveness of the defence force unless the portfolio committee is provided with a full and open briefing…”

Then-finance minister Trevor Manuel boosted defence spending from R28 233 billion to R32 024 billion in his February budget, or some R2.1 billion more than it was set to receive under previous estimates.

The Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) at the time showed the South African military would essentially receive the same – R32 389 billion next year and R34 418 billion the year after.

The defence budget has since been cut R1.98 billion over three years – with R700 million going this year – as part of an effort by new finance minister Pravin Gordhan to cut state expenditure in the face of a vicious global and local recession.

The Air Defence programme dominates expenditure for the next three years (“the MTEF period”), consuming 32.1% of the department`s total budget in 2009/10, because of the procurement of the Saab JAS39 Gripen fighter and the Airbus A400M Loadmaster strategic airlift capability.

From this April the Landward Defence programme takes up 27.3% of the total budget, while the other two big programmes, General Support and Military Health Support, take up 10.4% and 7.6%.

Next April the composition of the department`s budget changes to 31.2% for Landward Defence, 29.4% for Air Defence, 12.4% for General Support, and 8.7% for Military Health Support.