Why does the state spend more on the armed forces than on healthcare and education? Even before the details of the new budget review were published, an increase in the military budget to 600 million euro was approved, to be sent on the purchase of military equipment and weapons only.
Serbia now takes No 1 spot among the countries of the former Yugoslavia in terms of the amount allocated for the purchase of equipment and weapons, and is 4th in the region, just after Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria.
This upward trend, which began in 2015, did not stop last year, despite the economic crisis and the real drop in the gross domestic product, while this year, military spending will amount to €735 million.
“Five years ago, the cost of weapons suddenly started to grow and quickly exceeded the usual level for Eastern Europe and other comparable countries. We, in the Fiscal Council, realised this and asked why this would be a priority over, for example, health, education or the environment, or areas in which we have also lagged behind for many years,” Danko Brčerević, chief economist of the Fiscal Council told Danas daily, adding that for the first time, the budget review includes a significant allocation for environmental protection.
For Novica Antić of the Military Union, so much money earmarked for military equipment and weapons is unnecessary because it has not been coupled with investing in human resources. He points out that military staff salaries have gone up but so have living costs. It has been estimated that 84% of the military staff still have low or below-average salaries.
“We welcome any purchase of military equipment, but we wonder who will manage these funds. There are fewer and fewer people in the army, and when we ask the union to pay for meal allowances or overtime or transport costs, we are told there is no money in the budget. Our military personnel are leaving the army in droves and there are no new recruits, but the state continues to by weapons and spends huge amounts of money on buying combat equipment. It is obvious that someone is making good money here and this is the main reason,’ Antić says.
He points out that there are a number of dubious military projects that are being implemented and asks whether they are used to extract money from the budget or to really equip the army. Antić adds that, until a few years ago, it was the Army’s general staff that decided on the procurement of military equipment but the relevant law has been changed in the meantime. Now, Defence Minister, Aleksandar Vulin and his assistants decide on military purchases.
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