Is this why we spend so much on the military?

March 7, 2013
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

Every year the Government Budgetregisters the highest expenditure for the Ministry of Defence. Thisyear is no different with $12.3 billion or 20 percent of the nationalbudget going to the Ministry of Defence.$CUT$

After Israel, Singapore spends the most money percapita on the military in the world. But while Israel is at war withits neighbours, who are we fighting that requires so much muchexpenditure on arms?

Even Taiwan, which faces China on the question of re-unification, and South Korea, which istechnically in a state of war with its northern cousins, does not spend as much per capita onthe 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 muchof our national expenditure on arms, it invests little on necessary items such as healthcare. The Ministry of Health, bycomparison, only receives $5.7 billion – less than half of what Ministry of Defence gets.

This means that the Governmentshoulders only 30 percent of the total yearly expenditure that thiscountry incurs on healthcare. Governments in other advanced economies such asDenmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Taiwan , Japan, etc, in contrast,take on about 70 percent of their countries’ overall healthcareexpenditure.

The meagre amount that the PAPallocates to MOH means that the people are made to shoulder much ofthe healthcare expenses when they fall ill. Medical expenses is oneof the prime causes of financial problems and bankruptcy inSingapore.

Last year, a family was hit with a bill of$130,000 after their three-year old son was hospitalised formeningitis. The authorities arranged for the bill to be paid ininstalments 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 Governmentlavishes much of our tax dollars on defence with littletransparency and oversight.

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

With a cabinet staffed by generals, whoare by training excellent at giving and taking orders but lesswell-equipped when it comes to thinking out of the box, it is littlewonder that Mindef gets the major slice of the Budget pie.

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