ISLAMABAD - The defence budget for the fiscal year 2019-20 remains static at the level of outgoing year 2018-19 as the government allocated Rs1152 billion for the purpose, according to the documents.

Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar has, however, assured that there will be no compromise on the efficiency of the armed forces as he presented the budget in the National Assembly on Tuesday. The decision to freeze the defence budget for one year has been taken due to the country’s dire economic condition. According to the budget documents, an amount of Rs1152.535 billion has been allocated in the budget 2019-20 for defence affairs and services. An amount of Rs 2870 million would be spent on defence administration while Rs1149.665 billion has been allocated for defence services.  According to the breakup of the allocation for defence services, employees-related expenses have been estimated at Rs450.413 billion while operating expenses have been estimated at Rs264.656 billion. 

Prime Minister Imran Khan had taken to Twitter on the eve of Eidul Fitr to announce that the military had voluntarily agreed to cut its expenditures due to critical financial situation. Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, while talking to troops during a visit to the Line of Control on the Eid day, had said the armed forces were foregoing routine increase in annual defence budget. The PM had said the military voluntarily agreed to cut its expenditures due to critical financial situation while the army chief stated the impact will be managed by tightening belt. The defence budget freeze will be for one year.

The original defence budgetary allocation for the outgoing fiscal year (2018-19) was Rs1.1 trillion (1150 billion). The allocation made up 21 per cent of last year’s original budget outlay and 3.2pc of gross domestic product. Although the budget figures will remain static, in reality it will mean lesser available money for the troops due to devaluation of the rupee and inflation. The allocation doesn’t include military pension bill, spending on major weapons procurement. The freezing of defence spending in budget 2019-20 at the level of outgoing fiscal year will create a cushion to utilise resources on the merged districts of tribal areas and development needs of other areas.

According to the military officials, there shall be no impact on the response potential to any threat and quality of life of soldiers. No pay raise decision is also only for the officers and not for the soldiers. Voluntary cut in defence budget for a year will not be at the cost of defence and security, according to the military officials.

Another amount of Rs651 million has been allocated for defence production division and Rs911 million for maritime affairs division, according to the documents. The federal government also earmarked Rs456 million for different ongoing and new development schemes of Defence Division under the PSDP 2019-20. Rs61 million have been allocated for procurement/construction of 6 Maritime Patrol Vessels for PMSA.