According to a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Singapore is now the fifth-largest arms importer in the world, bested only by some obvious behemoths–China, India and Pakistan–plus South Korea. Singapore accounts for 4% of the world’s total spending on arms imports. Its defence spending per head beats every country bar America, Israel and Kuwait. This year $9.7 billion, or 24% of the national budget, will go on defence.
These are striking figures, but then Singapore has been one of the bigger spenders in the region since its rancorous split from Malaysia in 1965. The difference now is that almost every country in South-East Asia has embarked on a similar build-up, making it one of the fastest-growing regions for defence spending in the world. Military analysts at IHS Jane’s say that South-East Asian countries together increased defence spending by 13.5% last year, to $24.5 billion. The figure is projected to rise to $40 billion by 2016. According to SIPRI, arms deliveries to Malaysia jumped eightfold in 2005-09, compared with the previous five years. Indonesia’s spending grew by 84% in that period.
It is part of a wider Asian phenomenon. For the first time, in modern history at least, Asia’s military spending is poised to overtake Europe’s, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a think-tank in London. China is doubling its defence budget every five years and India has just announced a 17% rise in spending this year, to about $40 billion.
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