National defense spending in the government’s annual budget for next year stands at 2.34 percent of projected GDP, its lowest share since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in May 2008.
Under the draft budget proposal the Cabinet approved earlier this week, NT$312.3 billion (US$10.41 billion) is to be set aside for defense, an increase of NT$8 billion, or 2.7 percent, over this year, in stark contrast to the estimated double-digit growth in China’s defense budget in recent years.
In the draft budget, NT$441.6 billion is earmarked for social welfare projects, taking up the largest share of the projected expenditure of NT$1.959 trillion and accounting for 22.5 percent of total spending, followed by NT$385.6 billion in scientific, educational and cultural spending, or 19.7 percent.
Defense spending came in third, accounting for 15.9 percent of the projected expenditure.
In terms of GDP share, Ma’s administration has failed since 2011 to honor the president’s campaign promise to invest no less than 3 percent of GDP in national defense.
The percentage fell from 3.05 percent in the draft budget for the fiscal year of 2009 to 3 percent in 2010, 2.67 percent in 2011, 2.68 percent in 2012, 2.71 last year, 2.54 percent this year and 2.34 percent next year, an examination of the government’s draft budget statements showed.
Final-account reports for the years from 2009 to last year showed that the government’s actual defense spending each year failed to meet the 3 percent of GDP threshold, meaning that Ma’s pledge has not been fulfilled.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said that the administration’s failure to budget 3 percent of GDP for national defense is aimed at pleasing Beijing.
In the face of China’s consistently surging defense spending, the Ma administration has weakened the nation’s military capabilities, Tsai said.
What Ma’s administration has been doing is disarming the nation, limiting its self-defense capabilities, he said.
Since the military balance between Taiwan and China has tipped heavily in China’s favor, the threat to national security is a matter of grave concern, Tsai said.
The limited increase in the defense budget could further complicate the problem of insufficient recruitment of volunteer soldiers next year, he added.
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