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SIPRI - Trends in International Arms Transfers

Discussion in 'Geostrategic Issues' started by OPSSG, Mar 18, 2010.

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  1. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    In March 2010, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released their report on 'Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2009' (SIPRI Report 2009) and news organisations looked at the report and duly cited a few of the 'juicy numbers' in the report without thinking.

    Apparently, if you actually examine the data more closely, you will find that, in some cases, the conclusions that the news organisations drew from the report are without basis. There are lies, dammed lies and statistics. The selective presentation of data from a limited data set from a specific time period is misleading.

    Let's start with the BBC's article on the SIPRI Report 2009 and quoted below:

    AFP also reports on SIPRI Report 2009 and again uncritically regurgitates the same misleading data in their report, which is quoted below:

    I'll explain why BBC and AFP should be ashamed of their sloppy work by citing another news report on the same in the next post.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2010
  2. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Robert Karniol, writing for the Straits Times has an article on the SIPRI Report 2009 that places the arms spending in context, unlike the two reports above. Robert Karniol's article is quoted below:

    In contrast to the earlier news reports, the section in blue in the above article explains that the arms spending levels for some ASEAN countries have returned and even exceeded the levels in the 1995-1999 time period. However, a quick review of data presented by Robert Karniol does not seem to indicate of a region wide 'arms race'. I think that a strong case can be made that there is ongoing modernization efforts in only some ASEAN countries. OTOH, the case for a region wide arms race is weaker and needs a little more substantiation and explanation - to convince me.

    From the data, it seems as if Malaysia is singled out for criticism.

    Looking at the actors in East Asia security complex, defence expenditures of China, S. Korea and Japan, each of their respective aircraft procurement budget would dwarf that of all of S.E. Asia combined. Look at the South Asia security complex, again some big numbers for India. What is the impact of Malaysia's 1 squadron purchase in comparison to India's current order of Su-30MKIs (or for that matter China's building plan for the J-10)? Given the disparity in defence budgets, ASEAN countries cannot be said to engage in an arms race against regional powers like India or China. It would not be a race.

    As late comers, the Malaysians bought two submarines. But were the Malaysians the first to introduce submarines to ASEAN? NO. It was the Indonesians introduced submarines into S.E Asia with their acquisition of KRI Cakra and KRI Naggala. Are the Malaysians the largest operator of submarines in S.E. Asia? The answer again is NO. It is the Singapore Navy that is the largest operator of submarines in S.E. Asia (with 4 old 2nd hand submarines and 2 more on order). Here, you can make a case of intra-regional dynamics that resulted in the acquisition of new capabilities. Or do we want to blame China (for her submarine fleet building plan with 53 diesel submarines, 6 SSNs, 3 SSBNs and growing)?

    Is piracy a problem? Is it logical to purchase the 2 MEKO-200 frigates? Is it enough for the amount of ocean they need to patrol? It's no longer just petty robbery threats but also potential maritime terrorist attacks. Some of the data does not fit very well to support the idea of an arms race. Some of it will, some of it won't - let's all take a look.

    For those who are interested in a more in-depth look, there's a 2006 look at 'The Asian Conventional Military Balance'.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2010
  3. kato

    kato Defense Professional Verified Defense Pro

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    Mmm, i see it a bit differently. Even if, after the crisis, defence budgets effectively just "normalized" again - it speaks volumes that the ASEAN states, after the crisis, went right back into spending the same amounts on defence as before. From a disarmament perspective, that's pretty damning.

    And i should point out that while there was a 22% upswing in total arms imports worldwide (stated in the article as "ASEAN countries with only half that"), most of the upswing went into the arms races in South America (+150% !), the Middle East and between India and Pakistan. While in effectively all other theaters worldwide - except SE Asia - arms imports have fallen significantly. That includes China btw. As such this puts SE Asia in being classified a volatile situation.
     
  4. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm not a fan of the idea that just because the Europeans are reducing the defence spending the rest of the world should follow - particularly since NATO faces no peer military threat. For example, for the west, the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yet at the same time on August 2, 1990, the world changed for the people of Kuwait who woke up and found that they were a province of Saddam's Iraq.

    Yes, China is buying less arms from abroad but they are making much more on their own, be it J-10s, JH-7s, H-6s for their air force or ships and submarines for their navy. So citing China as buying less foreign weapons without qualification in the face of an ever increasing Chinese defence budget is very misleading. :D

    I know you threw that one in as a freebie to encourage discussion.

    IMO, it depends on the historical period you are looking at. I'll just give two examples. One, in the period of the Konfrontasi, it was a lot more unstable than it will ever be now. Two, when Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1979. Singapore troops in the '80s know that we may have to fight in Thailand to help defend them, if Vietnam moved further south.

    However, I do agree that there are some tensions and some potential for volatility. Hence, confidence building measures are necessary and it is necessary to look at the regional and extra-regional security dynamics.

    You can't say that defence spending in all ten ASEAN states increased because that is not the case. In fact, for a number of ASEAN states like the Philippines and Laos, defence spending in the relevant periods decreased both relatively and absolutely. IMO, there's no need to provide Philippine and Laos data for further analysis but we should look at the data from Thailand more closely. This is because they share borders with Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar - their decision will impact the surrounding states. According to SIPRI data, Thailand's defence spending as a percentage of GDP from 2005 to 2007 (2008 and 2009 figures were not available) and the amount spent for defence in constant (2005) US dollars were as follows:

    2005 - 1.1% (US$1,977 m)
    2006 - 1.1% (US$2,060 m)
    2007 - 1.3% (US$2,569 m)
    2008 - not available (US$3,003 m)

    And if you look at the data from 1995 to 1999, the comparable figures are as follows:

    1995 - 2.3% (US$3,240 m)
    1996 - 2.2% (US$3,240 m)
    1997 - 2.1% (US$3,006 m)
    1998 - 1.9% (US$2,440 m)
    1999 - 1.6% (US$2,113 m)

    In the SIPRI data set, Thai defence spending as a percentage of GDP was highest in 1988 at 2.8% (US$2,132 m). For comparison, according to SIPRI numbers, German defence spending in 1988 was 2.9% of GDP (or US$55,627 m in 2005 dollars). So in absolute and relative terms Thailand's highest year for spending on defence as a proportion to their GDP was smaller than Germany on the same year. Context is important.

    The SIPRI data does not clearly show the growth of the Thai defence budget. According to Jane's Thai defence spending for 2008 rose to US$4.5b (which is different from the SIPRI data cited above as it is expressed as constant 2005 dollars). Many of the new purchases are urgent and necessary to deal with the insurgency in the South and to deal with the issue of block obsolescence - given that there was a prior 9 year trend (1998 to 2006) of static or decreasing decreasing budgets since the 1997 economic crisis. According to Jane's, between 2002 and 2006 Thailand found itself with a defence budget that was declining in real terms.The trend of decline was arrested in the 2007 and 2008 budgets which saw expenditure increased by a third and a quarter respectively. The 2008 budget is more than double the 2006 level - a result of the change in government caused by the military coup in 2006. However, despite the 2006 military coup, the increased Thai defence spending in 2008 and 2009 is not expected to exceed 2% of their GDP (nor is there an attempt to return to the 1988 levels of 2.8% of Thai GDP).

    Currently Germany can reduce spending drastically because the Warsaw Pack no longer exists, while Thailand has not enjoyed such a drastic change in geo-strategic fortune. The Thais still have an insurgency in the south, border problems with Cambodia and domestic political instability. Further, the Thais share a border with Myanmar, which is really a potential arc of instability. Despite concerns about the Thai military as a result of the military coup in 2006, I don't think this is the time for Thailand to unilaterally disarm themselves. In fairness, I don't think we can characterise Thai defence spending levels as a percentage of GDP as high on a historical basis.

    Did the increase in defence spending by Malaysia change the security dynamics in S.E Asia? For me the answer is NO.

    First, you have to ask what did the Malaysians have and what did they buy? If you don't look at what was acquired how can you draw a conclusion that there is an arms race?

    Second, if you can look at the details it is possible to suggest that there is a potential for an arms race. But what about Malaysia's security considerations? How does the geo-politics of the region play out? The issue I have with the report is that there is clearly an up-trend in Thai defence spending from 2007 but that was not noted in the report proper. I can understand why they neglected to mention it but it is clear that the data is time period selective and the nature of the reporting does not reflect the actual regional arms purchase action-reaction dynamics.

    According to SIPRI data, Malaysia's defence spending as a percentage of GDP from 2005 to 2007 (2008 and 2009 figures were not available) and the amount spent for defence in constant (2005) US dollars were as follows:

    2005 - 2.3% (US$3,120 m)
    2006 - 2.1% (US$3,054 m)
    2007 - 2.1% (US$3,409 m)
    2008 - not available (US$3,479 m)

    And if you look at the data from 1995 to 1999, the comparable figures are as follows:

    1995 - 2.8% (US$2,055 m)
    1996 - 2.4% (US$1,976 m)
    1997 - 2.1% (US$1,858 m)
    1998 - 1.6% (US$1,365 m)
    1999 - 2.1% (US$1,847 m)

    In the SIPRI data set, Malaysian defence spending as a percentage of GDP was highest in 1991 and 1992, at 3.2% (US$1,690 m) and 3% (US$1,679 m) respectively. So there might have been the potential for a Malaysia-Singapore arms race in the 1990s but the 1990s came and went (Malaysia in particular cut back her defence spending in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian economic crisis).

    Is the 'arms resurgence/race' driven by intra-regional dynamics/developments? Or is the 'arms resurgence/race' driven by extra-regional concerns? Or is it just modernization (coupled with the rising costs associated with the acquisition of modern weapons systems) and also some level of improved equipping to enable more effective disaster response? I invite others to take a look at the different angles.

    The SIPRI Report 2009 details the following arms purchases of Malaysia for the relevant period:

    - Malaysia received 6 Su-30MKM, 2 Scorpene submarines, 2 MEKO-200 frigates and 21 PT-91 tanks​

    The Malaysians currently operate 8 F/A-18Ds, 10 Mig-29Ns (from the original 18, two crashed and they find it not economical to operate the other 6),18 Su-30MKMs, some F-5s and an assortment of other aircraft. This means that in terms of fighter numbers they operate a new Su-30MKM squadron and two older half squadrons of MiG-29Ns (10 operational) and F/A-18Ds (8 operational).

    With the latest acquisition, there is no doubt that the Malaysian air force has greater reach. However, the question I ask myself is:- Does this Su-30MKM acquisition of 18 planes change the balance of power in the immediate region? The answer is - NO. There is no change in the balance of power in the immediate region. Thailand operates 57 F-16A/Bs & has 6 Gripens on order (and Singapore has even more fighters including F-16C/Ds, F5s and F-15SGs on order).
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2010
  5. LancasterBomber

    LancasterBomber Defense Professional Verified Defense Pro

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    Hmmm interesting discussion. There would have to be a horrendously disproportionate ramp in defence expenditure as a percentage of GDP in Singapore or Malaysia or Indonesia for Australia to bat much of an eyelid (i.e we trust in their judgement on their own needs to protect their territory without the need to develop a sense of paranoia).

    Obviously we duly note defence acquisitions in a regional context but I would almost be at the opposite end of the spectrum on this. That is to say I welcome all of these smaller south east asian countries taking the protection of their sovereignty in a serious manner whereby from time to time their expenditure in the modernisation of their armed forces is increased.

    I dont think its in Australia's long term strategic interest to have a succession of 'basket case' sovereignties (from a defence perspective) to our immediate north. Malaysia for example is a very sophisticated society on all levels and as such I highly doubt there would be any level of paranoia coming from Australia in relation to their defence procurement decisions.

    I reserve my biggest 'frown' in relation to defence procurement towards both India and China. Its a tough call because I do respect the fact both of them have complex border protection issues (perceived or otherwise) but the sheer weight of numbers in their populous scrounging out an existence below the poverty line burdens me heavily (they both are leaving far too many behind).

    It is this dichotomy between those on a subsistent living and a burgeoning military expansion that has destabilizing effects in a global context. It is the apparent irrationality of it all that plays on the mind. Needless to say developing economies is a complex task and I dont envy either of them in that regard.

    So getting back to the local smaller south east asian nations I really would welcome them taking a much more proactive role in the modernisation of their armed forces and a sense of ownership in the security of their region. For me this promotes a longer term stability for Australia and I would welcome it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2010
  6. Ananda

    Ananda Well-Known Member

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    Konfrontasi was the most dangerous time in whole SEA history after end of collonial time. Indonesia for one thing after the end of Soekarno era never had the 'relative' military build-up in the scale of Konfrontasi time.
    If Soekarno still in place by the 70's and 80's the situations in SEA will be much different. For one thing no ASEAN in existances. Further on Soekarno ambitions to have nuclear weapons by 70's with the help of USSR, His missiles program, will in certain put the region in very precarious atmosphere.

    Not even the Vietnam advantures within IndoChina can be compared to the Konfrontasi era. You can say anything of Soeharto, however the wholle region should thank him a liitle bit at least when he throw Soekarno from office :D


    You're right. There's one weaknesses on interpreting statistical data only based to the amount and level of spending, however not comparing those data with economics reality.
    For example, this year budget for Indonesia military budget was USD 5 bio. However with last year economy already reach USD 600 bio, that's much bellow 1% of GDP. This USD 5 bio also less than 5% of this year government budget of USD 105 bio.
    If the USD 5 bio budget being substract with the amount of Military personal sallary and incentives, housing, and regular maintanance of existing hardware, this will left with only USD 1.5 bio for real deffence new spending. Still miniscule for a country with the size (Geographicall and Economically) like Indonesia.

    This report certaintly bias if saying that SEA was hugely mordenising their military inventory. Infact for several contries like Indonesia, the amount of spending was not even enough to repllace the old inventories on one on one basis.
     
  7. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    India and Brazil are the last great frontiers for arms sales. For example, leading contenders like American and European arms suppliers are bidding for the F-X2 fighter deal in Brazil and for a 126 MRCA aircraft deal in India (amongst other deals in the pipeline). I quote extracts below of Ajai Shukla's analysis on the data and it's implications for India:

    India's growing dependence on arms imports is both a strength and a weakness. A strength because they have access to military technology that China cannot hope to have and a weakness because they have significant problems with their industrial strategy for local weapons manufacture - they seem to lack focus and there seems to be a culture of late or non-performance in number of projects. If they can't develop it on time, they need to buy the sub-system and integrate the foreign technology into a platform. The value add of the defence science organisation is in helping the armed forces do a review of available technology providers to help the Indian military develop their capabilities in accordance to an integrated national plan across the three services. There seems to be a disconnect between the planning process and the management of competing interests in acquisitions that I do not understand at the moment.

    Their procurement and defence science organisations like DRDO must work with their suppliers to deliver what their military wants and also deliver it on time (at the time of the selection for a new platform) - it should never be the other way (Indian scientists telling the military what they need and repeatedly asking for flexible datelines). IMO, any military development project that has shifting goal posts and long gestation periods (so long that the goal posts need to be changed) is not a sign of good project management skills.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2010
  8. STURM

    STURM Well-Known Member

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    Agreed. I've never like the term 'arms race'', i think it's very misleading and too dramatic. Though there have been patterns and trends in what countries acquire, often leading to another neighbouring country later acquiring a similiar capability, IMO I fully doubt if the term ''arms race'' could be correctly applied to South East Asia.

    In Malaysia's case, much of it's defence buys since the 90's were aimed at modernisation or improving on what it already had. Driven by the need to protect the EEZ and the possibility that Vietnam might decide to spread the teachings of Lenin to Thailand and beyond, the largest defence modernisation programme,PERISTA, was introduced.
    During PERISTA large numbers of APCs, 88 Skyhawks [of which less thah half entered service] and 2 OPVs were bought, with 2 additional divisions and a corps level HQ [Army Field Command] being raised. It was only in 1988 that the first 155mm howitzers and in 1991 MANPADs, were ordered. Plans to develop Gong Kedak air base, where the MKMs are based, and the Gemas training base were planned under PERISTA but were postponed.

    IMO short of a country acquiring a new capability like cruise missiles from China or the Brahmos land attack missile, there has yet to be an arms procurement deal that has
    upset the regional balance of power. In the early 90's, the Indonesians announced that they were very interested in Scuds and at the 1997 LIMA, a Russian company obviously in dire need for cash, offered the RMAF [of all air arms!] the Backfire bomber.

    The point to take note is unlike most Europeans countries, almost all regional countries
    from the very start never had the capability to deal with external threats let alone have any power projection capabilities. Almost all had militaries that were oriented towards counter insurgency/internal security [In Malaysia's case until 1989 it was engaged in counter insurgency operations], hence the need to modernise.Unfortunatly, due to scarce funding and other priorities, modernisation plans are often spread over over a long period or faced a long delay. The recent introduction of MBTs and SSKs into Malaysia service was first planned in the 80's, as were plans to develop Gong Kedak into a full fledged air base.

    An F/A-18D suffered damage during a landing that went wrong at Kuching a few years ago but was returned to service.

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fiy5jlRNpxI"]YouTube- 101 East - Asia's arms race - 5 March 09 - Part 1[/ame]
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2010
  9. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for the video link (of that two part March 2009 video) and it features both Tim Huxley and Robert Karniol, who are old hands to the developments in the region. I've inserted part 2 of the same below:

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2mhRv_WPcI"]YouTube- 101 East - Asia's arms race - 5 March 09 - Part 2[/ame]

    The above FT news article (no link provided as registration is required) has a different angle and is one of the better articles on the topic. In the article, the author is able to place in context the security dilemma of the ASEAN states. There is another perspective from World Politics Review (WPR) called: 'Global Insights: China's Military Buildup Stokes Regional Arms Race'. The WPR article is longer and has more details.

    In terms of hard power, ASEAN is not a military threat to emerging global/regional powers like China and India. As such, there is scope for the ASEAN states to seek to engage both the emerging global/regional powers of India and China and the current global hegemonic power, the US (and her allies in Asia and Oceania). It is within this context that the modernisation of the various ASEAN militaries is taking place.

    I would like to quote Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister, Teo Chee Hean who gave a speech at CSIS in the US on 15 March 2010. This speech is intended for an American audience and in it he explains how ASEAN sees the rise of China:

    There is great diversity in Southeast Asia in terms of governance, in terms of economic development, in terms of military capabilities and in terms of religious or ethnic composition. ASEAN chooses not to focus on these differences but rather on what unites them because if they do not present a united front ASEAN could weaken. The member states of ASEAN are aware of these fault lines and are eager to try to overcome them. Therefore if any emerging power acts too aggressively, it is counter productive as it would only serve to unite the member states of ASEAN. China is growing more assertive (viz a viz the US) but it is possible that they will overplay their hand - in many ways, China is a fragile leading regional power with global or superpower aspirations.

    Further, the main problem of China-ASEAN and India-ASEAN arms build up is structural. The continued rapid growth in the size of China's and India's economies, especially relative to ASEAN, generates more resources for strengthening the armed forces of both China and India. For China, the PLAN is increasing the size and capabilities of its surface and submarine fleets. For India, their navy is making progress to recapitalise their surface fleet. While ASEAN may be weak in comparison, they are not totally helpless as they try to steer a course in the wake of China and India's rise (it is however legitimate to question the effectiveness of ASEAN's response or rather lack of official response).
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2010
  10. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Malaysia and Singapore Defence Spending Compared (1990 to 2008)

    According to SIPRI data, Malaysia's defence spending as a percentage of GDP from 1990 to 2007 (2008 and 2009 figures were not available) and the amount spent for defence in constant (2005) US dollars were stated [side by side with Singapore's figures] as follows:

    1990 - Malaysia: 2.6% (US$1,241 m) --------[Singapore: 4.9% {US$ 1,679 m}]
    1991 - Malaysia: 3.2% (US$1,690 m) --------[Singapore: 4.7% {US$ 2,486 m}]
    1992 - Malaysia: 3.0% (US$1,679 m) --------[Singapore: 4.7% {US$ 2,643 m}]
    1993 - Malaysia: 2.9% (US$1,784 m) --------[Singapore: 4.3% {US$ 2,727 m}]
    1994 - Malaysia: 2.8% (US$1,933 m) --------[Singapore: 4.0% {US$ 2,818 m}]

    1995 - Malaysia: 2.8% (US$2,055 m) --------[Singapore: 4.4% {US$ 3,376 m}]
    1996 - Malaysia: 2.4% (US$1,976 m) --------[Singapore: 4.4% {US$ 3,698 m}]
    1997 - Malaysia: 2.1% (US$1,858 m) --------[Singapore: 4.6% {US$ 4,150 m}]
    1998 - Malaysia: 1.6% (US$1,365 m) --------[Singapore: 5.4% {US$ 4,700 m}]
    1999 - Malaysia: 2.1% (US$1,847 m) --------[Singapore: 5.4% {US$ 4,788 m}]

    2000 - Malaysia: 1.6% (US$1,677 m) --------[Singapore: 4.7% {US$ 4,631 m}]
    2001 - Malaysia: 2.1% (US$2,086 m) --------[Singapore: 5.0% {US$ 4,741 m}]
    2002 - Malaysia: 2.2% (US$2,370 m) --------[Singapore: 5.1% {US$ 4,999 m}]
    2003 - Malaysia: 2.6% (US$3,022 m) --------[Singapore: 5.1% {US$ 5,048 m}]
    2004 - Malaysia: 2.3% (US$2,917 m) --------[Singapore: 4.6% {US$ 5,143 m}]

    2005 - Malaysia: 2.3% (US$3,120 m) --------[Singapore: 4.6% {US$ 5,464 m}]
    2006 - Malaysia: 2.1% (US$3,054 m) --------[Singapore: 4.4% {US$ 5,670 m}]
    2007 - Malaysia: 2.1% (US$3,409 m) --------[Singapore: 4.1% {US$ 5,806 m}]
    2008 - Malaysia: N.A. (US$3,479 m) ---------[Singapore: N.A. {US$ 5,831 m}]

    In the SIPRI data set (from 1988 onwards), Malaysian defence spending as a percentage of GDP was highest in 1991, at 3.2% (US$1,690 m) [Singapore: 4.7% {US$2,486 m}] in constant (2005) US dollars.

    Based on the above SIPRI figures, in 1991, Singapore spent US$796 m more than Malaysia. By 1995, Singapore spent at least US$1.3 billion more than Malaysia. The gap in spending moved from less than US$800 m a year in 1991 to more than US$1.3 billion a year by 1995. By 2008, Singapore spent over US$2.3 billion more per year than Malaysia (keeping in mind that Malaysia spends less than US$3.5b a year on defence). Not only is the spending gap is growing, the spending gap is also more than 67% of Malaysia's annual defence budget in 2008 (measured in constant 2005 dollars cited above). When the difference is measured over a 10 year period, the spending gap is even more astounding.

    Using the above figures, from 1998 to 2008, Malaysia spent slightly more than US$28.3 billion, whereas Singapore spent more than US$56.8 billion over the same period (in constant (2005) US dollars). This is a difference or a gap of US$28.5 billion. The difference/gap in spending is larger than Malaysia's total defence spending over the same 10 year period. Such a large spending gap affects the ability to raise, train, equip and sustain the respective armed forces.

    There cannot be an arms race between Singapore and Malaysia - because it would not be a race. If I may use an analogy, it's a race between a normal athlete [Singapore] and a man with one leg (Malaysia). The Malaysians not only spend less than Singapore, their government also spends their defence dollars more ineffectively. This is an opinion held not just by me but also by an external observer like Dana Dillion, writing on 'Security Challenges in Southeast Asia' in 1997 who said:

    "From 1985 to 1993, Malaysia and Singapore spent roughly the same amount of money... Yet in all respects, Singapore's military is far more capable than Malaysia's armed forces... The MAF, on the other hand, still has shortfalls in operational efficiency, readiness, and sustainability." Further, "to replace one aircraft, the A-4, RMAF has purchased: the MiG-29, the F/A-18, and the Hawk-200. Further exacerbating the problem is the low number of each aircraft purchased, which makes buying spare parts and services relatively more expensive and retention of an adequate number of qualified crews considerably more difficult."​

    When you look at the Malaysian defence spending pattern, it has quite a bit of ups and downs - demonstrating that it is not their national priority. If you look at the above SIPRI data, there was no Malaysia-Singapore arms race. Rather, Malaysia spent money on defence whenever her budget allowed for it. The figures in Red are years where there was a decline in defence spending. As you can see, there were six years where Malaysia's defence spending declined and ONLY one year where Singapore's defence spending declined.

    According to the above SIPRI data, from 1998 to 2008, Singapore out spent Malaysia by US$28.5 billion (in constant 2005 dollars). The difference/gap in spending is larger than Malaysia's total defence spending over the same 10 year period. Therefore Singapore has been able to really move ahead via consistency (in an April 2010 interview with Defence News, Singapore's DPM Teo Chee Hean revealed that Singapore spends about 4.5 percent of GDP on defence). Today the gap is even bigger, with the Singapore 2010 budget for defence set at S$11.46 billion dollars (or US$8.13 billion). However, I do have some concerns about the fidelity of SIPRI data - because not all Malaysian defence acquisitions are under the defence budget. Rather, certain large weapons acquisition programmes of national importance are allocated under the national procurement budget. For example, if a Malaysian acquisition is made under a national procurement program rather than a ministry program, it doesn't come out of that ministry's budget.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2014