More fund sought for modernising army
Defence purchase of Bangladesh Army is dependent on a derisory 6 percent of the fund allocated for the force while over 83 percent of the share is spent on salaries, allowances, services and supplies.
The acute shortage of fund stands in the way to modernisation of the force, says a report of the army, analysing the allocations and expenditures of the last four fiscal years.
The report was placed before the parliamentary standing committee on defence ministry on May 28 for discussion to elicit recommendations to resolve the problem. The Daily Star obtained a copy of the report.
The report says Tk 192 crore has been allocated in the four fiscal years since 2005-06 for procuring armament and ammunition against the army's requirement of Tk 403 crore for purchasing ammunition alone.
It says 65.79 percent of the allocated fund was spent on salaries and allowances of the force in 2004-05, 69.30 percent in FY 2005-06, 72.03 percent in FY 2006-07 and 64.52 percent in FY 2007-08.
For services and supplies, which include pension, uniform, food, etc, 15.43 percent of the fund has been spent in the last four fiscal years since 2004-05. The expenditure was 14.30 percent in FY 2004-05, 15.91 percent in FY 2005-06, 15.90 percent in FY 2006-07 and 15.59 percent in FY 2007-08.
The report terms the budgetary allocation very inadequate for modernising the force as only 5.6 percent of the allocated fund was spent on defence purchase in FY 2004-05, 5.9 percent in FY 2005-06, 5.1 percent in FY 2006-07 and 7.2 percent in FY 2007-08.
The defence purchase for UN peacekeeping mission was on an average 8.46 percent in the said four fiscal years.
The report says the army could never meet its needs for ammunition because of budget constraints.
The force sought Tk 70.49 crore for just purchasing ammunition in FY 2005-06, but only Tk 1.41 crore was allocated for procuring both armament and ammunition. In FY 2006-07, the army got Tk 68.48 crore for purchasing armament and ammunition against a demand of Tk 61.56 crore for ammunition alone, Tk 79.97 crore in FY 2007-08 against a requirement for Tk 133.21 crore, and Tk 43.27 crore in FY 2008-09 against a demand of Tk 138.43 crore.
The report identifies insufficient funding as the "key problem" to starting replacement of outdated weaponry.
"Most of our weapons are from the 1960s and '70s, which belittles our overall military prowess," it says.
According to the report, 90.3 percent small arms and 89 percent field artillery guns used by the army were bought during 1960s-80s while all the tanks are from that period.
The report also focuses on the shortage of manpower in the force and says talented youths are discouraged to join the army as facilities in the civil and corporate professions are better than those in the military service. It suggests making the military service attractive by increasing salaries and other benefits.
The report points out that the number of engineer battalions is very inadequate for implementing development activities in different parts of the country. There is also a shortage of equipment to deal with natural disasters like flood, cyclone and earthquakes.
Referring to the "Forces Goal 2020", a set of goals outlined in 2004 for the modernisation of the army in accordance with the country's economic reality, the report says accomplishing those goals will help plug the force's organisational shortcomings and increase its operational capacity.
Bemoaning the fact that the lack of fund is making those targets harder to attain, the army maintains that the government should approve the Forces Goal 2020 in principle.
The report mentions that the defence budget of India is 2.38 percent of its GDP, 3.2 percent in Pakistan, 6 percent in Sri Lanka, 3.3 percent in Myanmar, and 1.7 percent in Nepal while it is only 1.1 percent in Bangladesh.
In the proposed budget for FY 2009-10, the government has announced that it wants to restructure the country's defence system to ensure security of the country and the people and continue to improve defence capability.
"Enhanced provision in terms of higher training, modern military hardware and other facilities for the army, navy, air force and border security forces will be provided, so that they are fully prepared to face the challenges of the 21st century," Finance Minister AMA Muhith said in his budget speech on June 11.
The finance minister proposed increasing the original allocation of Tk 7,967 crore for FY 2008-09 to Tk 8,196 crore in the revised budget and allocating Tk 8,382 crore in the budget for FY 2009-10.