Gulf Defence Spending Unaffected by Volatile Oil Prices
5; 4;3; 6; 1;5; 2; 3; 4; 9; 5; 4;3; 1;5;3; 5; 4;2; 4;¡0;0;¡0; 4; 5; ¡0;8;1;9;5; 6;1;7;3;5;5; 5; 4;6;8;5; 8; 4; 5; 4; 5;8;1;5;0;1;7;
Source: 5th International Defence Exhibition & Conference. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 18-22, 2001.
Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. -- March 19, 2001 -- Gulf Arab states are pressing ahead with the plans they launched after the second Gulf war to bolster their defence capabilities to ensure their safety and protect their economic achievements, according to military analysts.
Unstable oil prices over the past few years have had no impact on such plans, as allocations for defence and security in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have remained almost unchanged.
" I have not detected any significant change in armament plans in the GCC countries or their financial allocations for security," a Western military expert said at IDEX.
"A clear evidence is that such allocations in 1998 were almost the same as those in the previous year although the oil revenues of the Gulf States plummeted to one of their lowest levels during that year."
Figures by the London-based Institute of International Strategic Studies showed the six GCC nations, which joined each other in an economic and political alliance in 1981, spent around 30 billion dollars in 1998 on defence and security, almost equivalent to military allocations during the previous year of the ensuing two years.
Such allocations remained high in 1998 although oil prices dived to nearly 12 dollars, one of their lowest levels in 20 years.
The decline slashed the earnings of the GCC countries to nearly 55 billion dollars in 1998 compared with more than 70 billion dollars in 1997 and 85 billion dollars in 1999.
The earnings in 2000 climbed to their highest level since the end of the oil boom in early 1980s as they exceeded 145 billion dollars at an average oil price of 27 dollars for Brent crude. They are expected to remain above 100 billion dollars this year as oil prices are projected to average around 22 dollars.
" Budget experiences in the GCC have shown any decline in oil revenues affect mostly development projects and other civilian expenditure, as far as I know, these countries give top priority to their security after bitter experiences with Iran and Iraq," one expert said.
Figures published by the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) showed Saudi Arabia, by the far the biggest GCC country, has remained the top defence spender in the region.
Last year it earmarked over 20 billion dollars to defence and security and the allocations were almost equivalent to those in previous years.
In terms of the gross domestic product, GCC states of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman have emerged as among the top defence spenders with such expenditure accounting for more than 10 percent of their GDP.
" In the past three years, defence and security allocations by the GCC amounted to more than a quarter of their total expenditure
this shows their concern about beefing up their defence capability," an expert said.
The plans by the GCC to reinforce their defences focus on the import of advanced weapons including aircraft, tanks, missiles and frigates to make up for a troop shortage as they have a relatively low population compared with their giant neighbours Iraq and Iran.
Such plans are a main theme at a defence forum being held on the sidelines of IDEX 2001 that includes the latest in weapon technology.
But organizers of one of the biggest defence shows in the world have stressed that the issues to be tackled at the conference would by no means considered as formal strategies for the countries of the region.
Just before he opened the exhibition yesterday, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces his highness sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed AL Nahyan made clear that the armament plans of the UAE are not directed against any party but are designed to protect "our achievements and ensure our security".
" It is the right of every country to reinforce its defence capability, announced Sultan Al Suweidi, director of the General Exhibition Corporation, which is organizing the five-day IDEX.
"Weapons are made for self-defence not for offensive actions
the problem is not with the use of the weapons but with the abuse of weapons because this is against honour and ethical values."