The Cabinet yesterday approved the government’s annual budget for next year, which projects revenues of NT$1.7295 trillion (US$59.84 billion) and expenditures of NT$1.939 trillion.
The figures represent a 5.1 percent and 8.4 percent increase from this year respectively, the -Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said.
The draft proposal for defense spending stood at NT$309.6 billion, accounting for 16 percent of the country’s annual spending for the next fiscal year, the same percentage as this year, according to data from the government. The draft defense budget also marked the first time the country’s defense budget has risen on a year-on-year basis since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) came to office. Defense spending this year was NT$286.3 billion.
Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics Minister Shih Su-mei (石素梅) said the defense budget increase came mainly because of the need to increase the head count for military officers and sergeants to reach the goal of a full-scale voluntary conscription system by 2014.
Despite the increase, Ma, in the last year of his first term, failed to deliver on a campaign promise to invest no less than 3 percent of the country’s GDP in national defense.
The DGBAS said NT$388.1 billion would be earmarked for the Ministry of National Defense (MND).
The NT$388.1 billion was composed of NT$309.6 billion in defense spending, NT$7.9 billion in the ministry’s research, environmental and subsidy programs, and NT$70.6 billion in three funds operated by the ministry and to be used in the reconstruction of military dormitories and military camps and arms production by the Bureau of Armament and Acquisition.
In the past three years under the Ma administration, defense spending in broad terms — including the ministry’s regular budget and the three funds — accounted for between 2.5 percent and 2.6 percent of GDP on average, MND spokesman David Lo (羅紹和) said.
The country’s defense spending drafted by the Ma administration has steadily declined for three consecutive years, from NT$315.2 billion in 2009 to NT$288.7 billion last year, and to NT$278.2 billion this year, government data showed.
In the draft annual budget for next year, NT$407.2 billion was earmarked for social welfare, taking up the largest share of spending, with an increase of 10.6 percent compared with this year, accounting for 21 percent of total spending.
The second-largest portion of the budget after social welfare was educational, scientific and cultural spending, at NT$367.4 billion, or 18.9 percent. In third place was the defense budget.
Budget allotment for economic development projects was NT$276.6 billion, or 14.3 percent, an increase of 26.1 percent from this year, in sharp contrast to the NT$18.3 billion, or 0.9 percent, allotted for community development and environmental protection.
However, the budget earmarked for community development and environmental protection saw the largest increase compared with this year, NT$7.2 billion, a rise of 155 percent.
Also in the budget was NT$187 billion for general spending, NT$138.7 billion for retirement subsidies, NT$130.1 billion for debt spending and NT$104.1 billion for general subsidies and other expenses.
The government’s fiscal shortfall was NT$209.5 billion, which was an increase of NT$66.9 billion compared with this year.