Added on: Thursday 07 March 2013
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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 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
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
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 Singaporeanshere. Read also our 2012 Shadow Budgethere. 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.