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Bangladesh Table of Contents


Defense Spending

Because it has been in power almost continuously since 1975, the military has been in position to channel resources to the defense sector. According to A.M.A. Muhith, a former Bangladeshi finance minister and a critic of the military, "the defense establishment has become virtually unaccountable and has appropriated a disproportionate share of resources for its perpetuation and enrichment." Muhith asserts that whereas public spending increased ninefold between 1974 and 1986, defense spending during that same period increased more than twentyfold. The army has received the best treatment. According to 1985 data, the army received over 50 percent of defense outlays. Moreover, army personnel strength has tripled since 1975. Navy and air force expansion has been less spectacular, although their capital outlays for such high-cost items as ships and aircraft represented an onerous economic burden. Analysts calculate that actual outlays for defense were considerably higher than published government budgets suggested.

Nevertheless, the armed forces continued to experience severe economic constraints. The defense budget for fiscal year (FY--see Glossary) 1989 totaled US$290 million and was the largest budget item, accounting for 17.2 percent of the national budget. In per capita terms, Bangladesh spent about US$3 per year, or about 2 percent of its gross national product (GNP--see Glossary), on defense. By any standard, this was a small sum for a military establishment numbering just over 100,000 personnel under arms. Foreign procurement took 15 to 20 percent of the defense budget. Recurring costs, such as training and pay, accounted for more than 50 percent.

Data as of September 1988