Turkey Slashes Military Spending, Steers Funds to Social Programs

Article Summary
Turkey cut military spending by 12% over the past decade, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Suleyman Yasar reports that some funds were diverted to education and health care, and that Turkey’s per-capita income tripled over the period.

One of the most striking positive developments for Turkey’s economy over the past ten years has been the reduction in military expenditures. According to data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Turkey reduced its military spending by 12% over the last decade. While in 2001 the ratio of military expenditures to national income was 3.7%, in 2011 the ratio was down to 2%. In Greece, the same ratio was 3.6% in the year 2000, but in 2011 it remained close at 3%. For our other neighbor, Russia, it actually went up from 3.7% to 4% in the same time period.

The top military spender in 2011 was the United States with $711 billion, followed by China with $140 billion and Russia with $71.9 billion. Turkey spent a total of $18.6 billion on its military in 2011.

How does SIPRI calculate military expenditures? It adds up the costs of weapons purchases, operations, personnel, military investments and even the expenditures for retired military personnel.

Global military expenditures in 2011 totaled $1.000738 trillion, a slight increase of 0.3% from 2010. While most of the Western world reduced its military expenditures, African states increased it by 8.6%, the Middle East by 4.6% and Asia and Oceania by 2.3%.

When global military expenditures increase by an average of 4.5% annually, how did Turkey reduce its military spending by 12%? We can point to the diversion of budgetary allotments from the military to education and health sectors, which now have higher shares of the national income.

Turkey’s success in reducing its military expenditures while it has continued to develop into one of the world’s major economies — even becoming a regional leader — proves that a powerful country depends more on improving welfare than accumulating arms. Don’t forget that while reducing military expenditures by 12%, Turkey’s per-capita income increased threefold, and Turkey has become a more powerful and respected country.

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