Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2003-09-15 Reporter: Geoff Harris

Check the Arms Wish List Again



Business Day

Date 2003-09-15


Geoff Harris

Web Link


Sir - The report, Lekota proposes R2bn defence budget increase (September 10), that Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota wants an additional R2bn is sad but not surprising.

After all, the arms deal has benefited the navy and the air force and done very little for the army. And it is the army that is doing something, particularly in terms of peacekeeping.

The thought that peacekeeping could be a significant role for the South African National Defence Force is only a couple of years old.

I am totally unconvinced by the minister's argument that an increase is justified because we allocate 1,6% of our gross domestic product (GDP) to defence, whereas other countries in the region average about 2%.

Given the size of our GDP compared with those of our neighbours, 1,6% still allows us to outgun the rest of Southern African Development Community combined.

A similar case in Japan, where the military is restricted to 1% of GDP. Given the size of Japan's GDP, this means that it is the world's fourth-largest military spender.

On the other hand, I totally agree with this view that the decision whether or not to increase military spending needs to be on "the basis of reality and what the country needs".

This was never done before the 1999 arms deal was signed. The wish list of arms proposed in the 1996 part of the white paper on defence, which became the 1999 arms package, was just a list of things that the military would rather like to have.

I suspect they were bowled over when the cabinet accepted it.

Before we allocate anything more to the military, I propose a very careful study of our defence needs. That way we might avoid using scarce resources for unnecessary purposes.

This study, incidentally, must include experts from outside the military and arms industry.

With acknowledgements to Geoff Harris and the Business Day.