Country Listing

Mauritania Table of Contents


Defense Budget and the Economy

Because of its involvement in the Western Sahara conflict, Mauritania has spent large sums of money on defense. The 1976 defense budget showed an increase of 32.9 percent over 1975, and that of 1977 provided a substantial increase over the 1976 level. In 1977 defense spending consumed 60 percent of the national budget, and in 1980 military spending was the only sector of the budget not cut. Commenting on this decision, one senior Mauritanian official said that no matter what the cost, the government was intent on maintaining its armed forces in order to guarantee its independence and national sovereignty.

Military expenditures severely distorted Mauritania's development. Defense spending diverted funds from rural development, undermined Mauritania's statist economic policies, and limited the business community's prosperity. From 1976 to 1978, businesses and government workers alike paid war taxes and took cuts in pay, and the government faced an increasingly impoverished population. To raise additional funds for defense, Haidalla increased the "solidarity contribution"--an unpopular payment made by salaried workers to the armed forces--from one to two days' pay a month. In addition, companies paid a special tax of 2 percent of sales as their contribution to defense. Ultimately, the unpopular war and its effects on the economy resulted in a military coup in 1978.

Data as of June 1988