Singapore Budget 2014: Steady defence spending will continue

An RSAF F-15SG fighter aircraft taking off for a mission during XFS 2013. -- PHOTO: MINDEF
An RSAF F-15SG fighter aircraft taking off for a mission during XFS 2013. -- PHOTO: MINDEF

Singapore will continue its approach of keeping defence spending steady, avoiding sharp spikes or drops which would undermine defence capabilities over the medium term.

"Our planning horizons are intentionally long term and we spend prudently and steadily," Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in Parliament on Thursday.

The reason for this, he added, is due to Singapore's robust approach in building its capabilities so as to achieve strategic deterrence, and to avoid being caught off-guard by unknown risks.

He unveiled how the Singapore Armed Forces in 2030 will look like, when the Republic buys new Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft, upgrades the ageing Bionix armoured vehicles and launches driverless vehicles to help protect Singapore's sovereignty.

Besides buying new war machines, Dr Ng also announced that the army could hire as many as 1,100 more career soldiers as professional trainers to cut down the duration of NS stints. It is also looking to cut down the wait by young men for their NS stints, by enlisting all NS-liable men within four to five months.

His comments came as some MPs questioned how the Government's defence spending will make the Singapore Armed Forces a credible and effective force.

This year, Mindef has a budget of $12.6 billion, up 3.2 per cent from last year. Noting that Singapore's defence budget grew from $8.6 billion in 2004 to $12.2 billion in 2013, Dr Ng said the budget has roughly kept pace with inflation and will continue to do so.

Dr Ng noted that Asian militaries have outspent Europe and are expected to surpass the United States within the next decade.

"A militarisation of many countries within Asia, of this magnitude, has no historical precedent. This is the larger strategic backdrop against which territorial disputes and incidents should be viewed."

Dr Ng said that with available resources, Singapore can "mitigate these vulnerabilities and prepare the best we can for our defences".

Singaporeans' commitment to the country was most important though, he said.

"We must be resilient enough to withstand the unforeseen. But most importantly, whether we can deter would-be aggressors for another 50 years and achieve peace depends not on advance systems or weaponry, no matter how sophisticated, but our people and their resolve to defend our island home."