The Bolivian government has increased its military budget by more than 120% during the last decade, increasing 64% during President Evo Morales five years in office, according to a report compiled by Bolivian journalist, Ruy D’Alencar Delgado, published in El Deber newspaper.
The report is based upon figures from the Bolivian economy ministry and says that even though the government says they are committed to their people’s social problems, they assign huge sums of money to defence which the analyst says is a “shame” because “education and health are in desperate need of infrastructure.”
The journalist said the amount of money spent on defence is contradictory to what the government says, because they refer to themselves as a government of the people, working to solve their problems, even though defence has more money assigned that social welfare and human development areas.
“Defence takes up the largest amount of the total of the money distributed by the government, 26%” according to economy ministry figures D’Alencar said.
The Bolivian defence budget for 2011 is over 287 billion US dollars.
Bolivian Defence Minister Ruben Saavedra said that the increase in defence spending is due to “an increase in administrative personnel and salary increases assigned by President Evo Morales during the last five years. State resources pay for some 70,000 military personnel across the country, who have to be fed and clothed and electricity, water, telephones and other services have to be paid in all the military units, of which there are more than two hundred.”
Economist Alberto Bonadona said the “defence budget priorities, makes one think that the government will use the support of the military and police to benefit themselves.”
“Education and health require infrastructure, something which is considered an investment, it is a shame that in a country as poor as Bolivia, so much money is consumed on defence,” added D’Alencar.
According to the report education receives only 3% of the government’s budget, nine times less than defence and a 15.9% drop in ten years.
Saavedra said that “Bolivian security is a permanent matter and that the money spent on defence is an investment to guarantee sovereignty, independence and development.”
Last week the Bolivian government announced they have purchased six Chinese K-B fighter planes for U$ 58 million. The head of the Air Force General Tito Gandarillas said that the aircraft “will last for fifteen or twenty years and are capable of intercepting other aircraft.”
China has also given Bolivia 10,000 AK-47 assault rifles worth 60 million dollars.
The government is currently negotiating with Russia over a loan of U$ 300 million to purchase military material, in principal six MS-7 helicopters, the modernisation of general military equipment and the possibility of acquiring missiles.
Evo Morales came in to office in 2005 and in spite of only a slight increase the defence budget the following year, it increased substantially in subsequent years. The Bolivian armed forces have 70,000 people on the pay-roll, compared to 9,000 in neighbouring Paraguay.