Country Listing

Angola Table of Contents


War and the Military in National Perspective

Perpetual war magnified and multiplied the social and economic impact of defense spending. Military expenditures and arms imports were the most obvious indicators of the intensified war effort. Luanda's defense spending nearly quadrupled from US$343 million in 1978 to US$1.3 billion in 1986 (in constant 1980 dollars), the bulk of that increase coming after 1983. In 1986 defense accounted for 40.4 percent of government expenditures. Military expenditure as a percentage of the gross national product (GNP--see Glossary), estimated at 12 percent to 14 percent from 1980 to 1982, rose steadily to 28.5 percent by 1985.

Arms imports also increased dramatically. Measured in constant 1984 dollars, the value of arms imports nearly doubled after 1980. During the late 1970s, arms deliveries remained relatively constant at a bit more than US$500 million per year, but after 1980 they surged to an annual average of more than US$1 billion. Since the 1970s, Angola's arms imports had ranged between 45 percent and 88 percent of total imports. In mid-1988 Angolan government officials estimated the country's external debt at US$4 billion, most of which was owed to the Soviet Union for military purchases, and they were considering the possibility of imposing a compulsory public loan to cover revenue requirements.

Angola's heavy defense burden was evident by comparative standards as well. According to 1985 statistics published by ACDA, Angola ranked sixty-third of 144 countries in both military expenditure and size of its armed forces. These absolute measures of military effort were consistent with Angola's ranking of between sixty-eight and seventy-three in GNP, central government expenditures, and population. However, the militarizing effects were seen more clearly and dramatically in relative measures of defense effort: Angola ranked seventeenth in level of arms imports and sixth in arms imports as a percentage of total imports, twentysixth in military expenditure as a percentage of GNP, thirty-second in military expenditure as a percentage of the government's budget, fiftieth in military expenditure per capita, and fifty-seventh in military expenditure relative to the size of the armed forces. The continued growth of the armed forces, military expenditures, and arms imports into the late 1980s further increased the burden of defense and ensured that few resources would be left for social and economic development.

Not only did the armed forces command and consume an enormous share of national wealth and revenue, their increased political power was institutionalized at every level of government. The defense and security forces were heavily represented in the highest organs of the party and government; indeed, the exigencies of war virtually transformed the integrated party-government system into a military machine dedicated to prosecuting war at an increasingly higher price. The reorganization of the territorial administration into military regions and provincial defense councils carried the process even further. It remained to be seen whether the December 1988 regional accords--which excluded UNITA--would result in a reversal of the process.

Data as of February 1989