Saturday, June 13, 2015

Angola's Arms Spending

 Angola spent more on its military last year than any other sub-Saharan African nation even though it’s been at peace since a civil war ended more than a decade ago. Angola invested $1 billion on fighter jets and weapons from Russia in 2013. The country paid an undisclosed sum for surveillance drones from Israel. It’s also buying 45 Casspir armored personnel carriers from South Africa. Angola, with a population of 24 million, has an active armed forces of about 107,000, composed of 100,000 soldiers, 6,000 air corps members and 1,000 navy officers. Angola also maintains a “ghost army” of former combatants that bloat the payroll, to ensure stability after the civil war

The southwest African country, which is about twice the size of Texas, budgeted $6.8 billion on defense, second only to Algeria in continental Africa, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It’s more than the combined amount of Nigeria and South Africa, the region’s biggest economies that together have a population 10 times larger. Spending rose almost fourfold since the end of Angola’s 27-year conflict in 2002, the institute said. Even after Angola cut its budget by a quarter this year, reeling from a 40 percent plunge in oil prices, defense and security spending is set to rise, budget figures show. It will exceed the combined total allocated for health and education, according to Finance Ministry documents.

“What’s spectacular about this is that you essentially have a country that has been at peace over the last 13 years,” Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, author of the book “Magnificent and Beggar Land: Angola Since the Civil War,” said. “Just the numbers tell a crazy story.”

“These deals are handled by a handful of people that revolve around President Jose Eduardo dos Santos,” Paula Roque, a Johannesburg-based analyst with International Crisis Group, said by phone. The president has the discretion to spend a percentage of the budget “in any manner or form he wants, without accountability, fiscal transparency and without oversight of other organs of the state,” she said. Dos Santos, in power since 1979, ensures a portion of the defense budget goes to his military leaders and he appoints people who have no independent power base inside the ruling party so that they remain loyal to him

“It’s meant that the army is both extraordinarily mighty, at least in terms of its size in the sub-Saharan Africa context there’s practically no equivalent,” Soares de Oliveira said. “But it’s also been politically reliable and politically quietist; it hasn’t had aspirations.”

The country’s emphasis on defense spending leaves it with less cash available to alleviate poverty in a country with the world’s highest child mortality rate.

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