Defence Outlays Decrease Globally, Spike in Middle East: SIPRI Survey

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Defence expenditure forms one of the core fiscal expenditures of countries with millions of dollars being spent by governments to ensure that their defence system is up-to date and bolstered with highly refined arsenal. Defence expenditures aren’t however mindlessly carried out, but are carefully applied strategies that are subject to the overall global economic trends.

defense spending
British Defence company BAE Systems Fighter Jet on display during Dubai Airshow. Recent survey brings out interesting defence expenditure trends in the world, especially in the Middle East where defence budgets have increased considerably. Photo-Mahsoom/Arabian Gazette

SIPRI’s survey on defence expenditure for 2013 pinpoints as much, reflecting not just the overall global defence expenditures’ trajectory, but also defence expenditure trends for specific regions as well.

In terms of pinpointing the pathway of the global defence expenditures, the following can be highlighted:

  • Stark reduction in military expenditure by about 1.9 percent in 2013 as compared to the 0.4 percent reduction figure of 2012
  • Monetarily, the defence expenditure for 2013 totalled to about US$ 1747 billion
  • Overall, defence expenditures were reduced in the Western part of the world while there were substantial increases recorded in Asian countries

A contradiction however can be presented between the actual defence expenditure figures and the overall outlay trajectory for 2013 for United States. In 2013, the United States was the country which recorded the most defence expenditure but conversely, its defence expenditure in actuality was reduced by about 7.8 percent to about $640 billion. In comparison with defence expenditure as a portion of GDP, while in 2004, the United States had spent about 3.9 percent of its GDP as its defence expenditure, in 2013, this was reduced to about 3.8 percent; a slight, but a no less significant reduction.

Middle East Defence Expenditure Trends

Contrary to their Western counterparts, the Middle Eastern nations recorded increases in their overall defence expenditure. Most prominent amongst them being Saudi Arabia which came to be ranked fourth – upward movement of three places from 2012 – in the list of 15 countries with the highest defence expenditure figures, after the US, China and Russia respectively.

Some of the other facets of the Middle Eastern defence expenditure pathways can be summed up as follows:

  • The entire Middle Eastern region’s defence expenditure grew by four percent for the period between 2012-13 in comparison to percentage counts of North America and Europe which reduced by over six percent and two percent respectively
  • Monetarily, this increase totalled to about US$ 150 billion though this figure excludes the UAE, Iran, Qatar, Syria and Yemen on account of insufficient data accounting for these nations’ defence spending
  • Of the entirety of the US$ 150 billion, Saudi Arabia alone contributed figures of about US$ 67 billion recording an increment of about 14 percent
  • In terms of allocation of defence budgets as a part of GDP, Saudi Arabia’s defence budgets come to about 9.3 percent of the totality of the country’s GDP
  • The nations that recorded the most increments in their defence budgets were Iraq with about 27 percent and Bahrain with about 26 percent

Oman was one country which again presented contradicting figures recording a reduction in its overall defence budget by about 27 percent. However with nearly 11.3 percent of its GDP allocated to its defence budget, Oman still records the highest figures for defence budget allocation from its GDP in the entirety of the Middle East.


The overall reduction in the defence expenditure of majority of regions in the world can be attributed to the fact that deployments of military forces on foreign shores have started to be reduced. This is true in case of United States’ defence expenditure with its military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq being pulled back as outlined previously. The defence expenditure trends for 2013 thus present some definitive strategies which only promise to get elucidated better in the days to come.

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