Economic Policy Review ISSN 1313 - 0544

The Ministry of Defense will fight the dragon?!

Author: Zornitza Manolova / 12.03.2009
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On Monday the Minister of Defense expressed his dissatisfaction with the bad planning of the expenditures for defense and defense policy of Bulgaria. It became clear from his statement that during recent years are signed contracts for over 1 billion levs for unneeded equipment, which does not give any new "military capabilities" of the Bulgarian armed forced. The main expenditures are for transport and training planes, helicopters and multipurpose fighter aircrafts.

Keeping in mind that Bulgaria is not under a real threat of a war or conventional military conflict, the enormous expenditures for equipment and the maintenance of a large army could not be justified and are irrational.  They only show that the money of the taxpayers are not used effectively and do not lead to real benefits to society or the army. The lack of transparency and the speculations about corruption underline the suspicions for ineffective and unjustified use of the funds from the budget.

Practically, for the contemporary army are required well trained soldiers and modern technology. These characteristics refer mainly to the high quality of execution of the defense policy. Bulgaria bets on the quantity on both points. This is indicated by the data about the percentage of the defense costs to GDP and the ratio of the armed forces to the population of the country.

Defense expenses and military strength in some countries

State

Military expenses

(% of GDP)

Armed forces/

population (‰)

Year

Luxemburg

0,9

1,92

2005

Canada

1,1

2,95

2009

Lithuania

1,14

3,53

2008

Spain

1,2

3,49

2007

Hungary

1,2

3,31

2006

Germany

1,3

3,45

2006

Denmark

1,3

4,24

2006

Belgium

1,3

3,94

2005

Czech Republic

1,46

5,57

2007

Holland

1,65

3,24

2009

Slovenia

1,8

1,21

2007

Estonia

1,8

4,13

2008

Italy

1,8

3,42

2007

Slovakia

1,85

4,05

2008

Latvia

1,9

2,13

2007

Poland

1,95

4,23

2008

Romania

2,05

4,40

2007

Bulgaria

2,1

             4,19

2008

Portugal

2,3

4,25

2007

Great Britain

2,5

3,09

2008

France

2,6

4,27

2005

Source: The Ministries of Defense of the various countries, Center for Strategic and International Studies 2006, Jaffa Center of Strategic Studies

For 2008 the military expenses of Bulgaria represent 2.1% of the GDP, which is placing us at the bottom of the table of the best European and World practices. Since we are members of the largest defense organization - NATO (during 2009 are providing 77 million levs to cover for our obligations) the necessity of very large expenses for defense is arguable. The same applies to the number of the armed forces, where Bulgaria is among the leader with a ratio number of soldiers to the population.

Yes, the Bulgarian armed forces need modernization, but that does not mean, that are required amorous funds from the State budget. A sufficiently effective and economic instrument for financing the armed forces could be the privatization of the military estates. The Ministry of Defense manages and maintains a large number of real estate, which practically are not used. Naturally, we have in mind privatization of the estates through open tenders and complete transparency of the deals. Reducing the unnecessary large number of the armed forces would also free part of the estate for military purposes.

Radical, but not unfounded decision is the total privatization of the military estates and than the armed forces could rent the necessary bases. As a result initially there would be significant revenues; the expenditure for maintenance would be reduced significantly while the armed forces would use optimally the resources. The funds could be used for total modernization and improvement of the war capabilities of the country.