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Sat 18 Apr 2015 09:42 AM

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Saudi Arabia raises military spending by 17% in 2014

New report says Gulf kingdom expected to maintain spending plans this year despite impact of lower oil prices

Saudi Arabia raises military spending by 17% in 2014
(Photo for illustrative purposes only)

Saudi Arabia, which is currently leading a coalition of allies fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, oversaw one of the largest increases in military spending in 2014, a new report has said.

The Gulf kingdom's defence spending rose by 17 percent compared to the previous year, according to figures released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Globally, Saudi Arabia was named the fourth largest military spender — behind the US, China, and Russia - who all substantially increased their military expenditures last year.

Saudi Arabia's 17 percent increase was the largest of any of the top 15 spenders worldwide although Ukraine's expenditure soared by 20 percent and plans to more than double spending on the armed forces in 2015.

The report said it is unclear what impact the sharp fall in the price of oil in late 2014 may have on the large rises in military spending that have taken place in many oil producing countries.

"While some producers, such as Saudi Arabia, have built up large financial reserves that will enable them to withstand lower prices for some time, others may be more affected, and indeed Russia has already cut its military spending plans for 2015 as a result," SIPRI said.

World military expenditure totalled $1.8 trillion in 2014, a fall of 0.4 percent in real terms since 2013, according to the figures.

World military spending, while falling for the third year in a row, levelled off as reductions in the United States and Western Europe were largely matched by increases in Asia and Oceania, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa.

US military spending fell by 6.5 percent as part of ongoing budget deficit reduction measures - spending has now fallen by 20 percent since its peak in 2010. However, current US military spending is still 45 percent higher than in 2001, just before the September 11 terrorist attacks, the report said.

"While total world military spending is mostly unchanged, some regions, such as the Middle East and much of Africa, are continuing to see rapid build-ups that are placing an increasingly high burden on many economies," said Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, head of SIPRI’s Military Expenditure project.

"These increases partly reflect worsening security situations, but in many cases they are also the product of corruption, vested interests and autocratic governance."

The conflict in Ukraine is prompting many European countries near Russia, in Central Europe, the Baltics and the Nordic countries, to increase military spending, often revising previous plans and reversing falling trends, the report added.

"The Ukraine crisis has fundamentally altered the security situation in Europe, but so far the impact on military spending is mostly apparent in countries bordering Russia. Elsewhere, austerity remains the main driver of downward spending trends," said Perlo-Freeman.