The national defense budget over the past two years averaged 1.84 percent of GDP, falling short of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) campaign pledge to increase military spending to 3 percent of GDP, the Ministry of National Defense said in its latest report to the Legislative Yuan.
The national defense budget this year was NT$327.8 billion (US$10.73 billion), and NT$153.9 billion of it, or about 46.96 percent, was allocated to personnel expenditures, according to the report.
The average defense spending over the past two years represents a decline from 2.54 percent of GDP in 2008, the report said.
Had Tsai’s campaign promise been fulfilled, the defense budget would be NT$535 billion this year, a senior defense official said on condition of anonymity.
Barring additional large-scale procurement of foreign arms, military spending is unlikely to reach 3 percent of GDP before the end of Tsai’s four-year term, the official said.
Even if the government raised defense spending by 2 or 3 percentage points annually from its current level as Tsai has proposed, the goal would still be out of reach, the official said.
The military had hoped to increase the defense budget to NT$360 billion in fiscal year 2019, or 2 percent of GDP, but the Executive Yuan said that it could not meet that expectation in light of unexpected revenue shortfalls, the official said.
Nevertheless, the Executive Yuan and the legislature have expressed support for including as priorities in next year’s defense budget M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, an indigenous fast attack missile boat program and a new mobile surface-to-air missile system, the official said.
The weapons systems are crucial to bolstering morale and improving the military’s combat capabilities, the official said.
When allocating funds, the ministry prioritizes meeting the armed forces’ legal obligations to military personnel, and the maintenance of current investments and existing operational needs before tackling new projects, the report said.
The estimated cost of military personnel expenditures was NT$141.5 billion in 2015, NT$145.7 billion in 2016 and NT$141.7 billion last year, it said.
In accordance with legal obligations, the ministry almost always spends as much money on personnel expenditure-related items as the listed amount, with spending for those items exceeding 99.5 percent of projected costs every year, the report said.
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