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Is this why we spend so much on the military?

Added on: Thursday 07 March 2013
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Singapore Democrats

Every year the Government Budget registers the highest expenditure for the Ministry of Defence. This year is no different with $12.3 billion or 20 percent of the national budget going to the Ministry of Defence.

After Israel, Singapore spends the most money per capita on the military in the world. But while Israel is at war with its neighbours, who are we fighting that requires so much much expenditure on arms?

Even Taiwan, which faces China on the question of re-unification, and South Korea, which is technically in a state of war with its northern cousins, does not spend as much per capita on the military.

The high expenditure on defence is unsettling for our neighbours who spend significantly less even though they have much larger populations: Malaysia - $4.8 billion, Indonesia - $6.5 billion, Thailand - $6.6 billion, Vietnam - $3.2 billion. Our purchases on missiles, fighter jets, submarines, etc is generating an arms race in the region.

But while the Government allocates much of our national expenditure on arms, it invests little on necessary items such as healthcare. The Ministry of Health, by comparison, only receives $5.7 billion - less than half of what Ministry of Defence gets.

This means that the Government shoulders only 30 percent of the total yearly expenditure that this country incurs on healthcare. Governments in other advanced economies such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Taiwan , Japan, etc, in contrast, take on about 70 percent of their countries' overall healthcare expenditure.

The meagre amount that the PAP allocates to MOH means that the people are made to shoulder much of the healthcare expenses when they fall ill. Medical expenses is one of the prime causes of financial problems and bankruptcy in Singapore.

Last year, a family was hit with a bill of $130,000 after their three-year old son was hospitalised for meningitis. The authorities arranged for the bill to be paid in instalments over a 42-year period!

In our healthcare plan, the SDP proposes that we reduce defence spending and increase the budget for healthcare to ease the burden of medical expenses for Singaporeans (read The SDP National Healthcare Plan: Caring For All Singaporeans here. Read also our 2012 Shadow Budget here. We will present the Shadow Budget for 2013 shortly).

In the meantime, the Government lavishes much of our tax dollars on defence with little transparency and oversight.

Perhaps this is no surprise as many of the cabinet ministers were former military personnel. The Prime Minister was a brigadier-general in the army. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, former foreign minister George Yeo, Minister of Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang, Acting Minister of Manpower Tan Chuan-jin, and Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing are all former senior military men.

With a cabinet staffed by generals, who are by training excellent at giving and taking orders but less well-equipped when it comes to thinking out of the box, it is little wonder that Mindef gets the major slice of the Budget pie.

It is, perhaps, time to examine why the militarisation of Singapore is such a high priority and is the enormous expenditure on arms at the expense of our other needs healthy for our people.

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