A researcher yesterday called on the government to reconsider the practice of proposing 10 percent across-the-board budget cuts when reviewing a government agency’s budget for a fiscal year, saying that to do so would leave the Ministry of National Defense (MND) cash-strapped at a time when China is increasing its military spending.
The remarks came following the announcement by Chinese National People’s Congress spokeswoman Fu Ying (傅瑩) earlier yesterday that China would raise defense spending by “about 7 percent” this year.
China spent 954.554 billion yuan (US$138.29 billion) on its military last year, a number that could increase to about 1.02 trillion yuan this year with the 7 percent increase.
It would be the first time that China’s military expenditure has exceeded 1 trillion yuan.
Taiwanese analysts said the widening gap in military spending across the Taiwan Strait is a cause for concern, adding that despite the MND’s latest estimated budget of about NT$321 billion (US$10.35 billion) — about 15 percent of the government’s total estimated budget — the nation’s defense spending would still be about 14 times less than that of China’s this year.
A previous report by the Democratic Progressive Party think tank the New Frontier Foundation said that the nation’s defense spending should be raised to 3 percent of GDP.
However, Premier Lin Chuan (林全) last year said that this would amount to about NT$500 billion annually, adding that such spending would be unsustainable.
Taiwan Thinktank researcher Tung Li-wen (董立文) yesterday said that over the past 20 years, the nation’s defense budget has always been bolstered in response to a double-digit percentage rise in China’s military spending.
The idea is not to compete with China militarily, but to ensure the efficacy of the nation’s defenses, Tung said, adding that the nation’s military also serves an important role in ensuring regional peace and stability.
The MND’s budget should be separately evaluated rather than undergo comparative evaluation with other departments, Tung said, adding that if defense spending absolutely cannot be increased, at the very least it should not be cut.
Alexander Huang (黃介正), an assistant professor at Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, said China’s high military expenses are to be expected given the current development of its second and third aircraft carriers and the salaries required for its 300,000 generals.
China’s current military buildup is not exclusively aimed at Taiwan, Huang added.
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