Asia Defense

What Does Myanmar’s New Defense Budget Mean?

A closer look at defense spending in the NLD government’s first-ever budget.

What Does Myanmar’s New Defense Budget Mean?
Credit: India Ministry of Defense

Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government has proposed its first defense budget of around 2.91 trillion kyat ($2.1 billion) for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, according to local media reports.

For perspective, a 2.91 trillion kyat defense budget would amount to around 13.9 percent of government expenditures and about 3 percent of national GDP. The total amount constitutes a reduction from the previous two years and well below the number reportedly requested by the military.

“You will see our spending request for this fiscal year is less than the two previous fiscal years in our budget estimates,” Myanmar’s Deputy Defense Minister Myint We said during his presentation to parliament.

The presentation also outlined the breakdown of the defense budget by account – from salaries and allowances to military hardware to operations – and cast it as part of a broader effort by the country to modernize its military to confront a range of threats.

That being said, in a broader sense, the numbers do not diverge significantly from the past few years, where the defense budget has accounted for between 13 to 14 percent of the total budget during the fiscal year.

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The figure is also not that dramatic when seen from the perspective of the overall budget. It suggests that even though defense continues to be priority in a country where the military continues to enjoy significant control, the NLD government has also been trying to ensure that allocations to other key areas are also not neglected.

As an indicator of this, the defense ministry’s requested budget was the third highest following the ministry of planning and finance and the ministry of electric power and energy, and there were also significant allocations for fields like health and education.