Low defense budget hampers Indonesia's military ability

Low defense budget hampers Indonesia's military ability

JAKARTA - The 2014 defence budget - Rp 83.4 trillion (S$9.2 billion) - has been deemed too low to make a difference as it is only 0.9 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), a researcher said.

"If it remains below 1 per cent. It will be not enough," Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) researcher Alexandra Retno Wulan told a discussion Wednesday.

Alexandra viewed the current budget, which is not only the largest among other ministries and agencies but also the highest defence budget ever recorded, had to be increased to ensure effective defensive strategies. "It should be at least at 2 per cent."

In comparison, Alexandra said, the average military budget of other countries is 2.2 per cent, of GDP, and the average of NATO member countries is 2.5 per cent.

Singapore, meanwhile, assigned 4 per cent this year, she added.

Indonesia has been working toward the modernization of its primary weaponry defence system (Alutsista) as well as reaching its Minimum Essential Force (MEF) in 2024.

For example, in February, the Air Force officially received 16 new South Korean-made T-50i jet fighters after signing a $400 million deal in 2011.

The Army has also been looking to modernize its primary weapons defence system for the 2014-2018 period with a number of acquisitions, including helicopters, aerial defence systems and tanks. One such acquisition is the AH-64E Apache attack helicopter, bought from the US Army through a Foreign Military Sales agreement in a deal worth $500 million.

Alexandra later pointed out another problem was the effectiveness of the budget's usage, given the highly varied platforms used by the Alutsista.

"There are around 100 Alutsista platforms - too many. The maintenance cost is too high and it will be hard to modernize them," she said. "They should reduce them before modernizing them."

However, scientist Kusnanto Anggoro of the Indonesian Defence University (IDU) disagreed, saying that a small budget should not be a constraint; instead they should consolidate existing resources.

"Yes, the defence budget is small; however, there are research budgets [related to defence] at the National Resilience Institute [Lemhanas], the Research and Technology Ministry, and elsewhere," he told the discussion.

"The next president needs to [...] consolidate and integrate the resources."

Wednesday's discussion was also made ahead of the elections, as new president may also set new defence and foreign affairs policies.

During the discussion, the issue whether Indonesia should start to focus its foreign policy to other multilateral cooperations aside from ASEAN was also on the table.

Rizal Sukma of the CSIS expressed his opinion that Indonesia should reposition its space of engagement: "ASEAN is important, but it is not the only one."

His comment raised objection from foreign policy expert and an advisor to Vice President Boediono, Dewi Fortuna Anwar.

"We should ask question whether it will be a post-ASEAN policy or a beyond-ASEAN policy. ASEAN will benefit us; if it is safe, we are also safe to move outside. It should be a launching pad," she said.

Both defence and foreign policy needed long-term processes laid out for the next president to follow, while at the same time improving the work of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, for example the MEF, Alexandra said.

"It is important to combine foreign policy and defence," Dewi added.


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