SHAH ALAM: Ground hog day. The Unity government national security sector budget will follow the same script as the one proposed by BN-PN government last year. Malaysian Defence had previously stated that the government set-up following GE15 will follow or made slight changes to the proposed budget as they will not have enough time to devise a completely new one.
Defence Minister DS Muhamad Hasan in his new year address at Wisma Pertahanan today said the government is likely to propose a RM17.4 billion budget for the ministry, with an OE of RM11.4 billion and a DE of RM5.9 billion. This is the same allocation in the proposed budget.
The defence budget is RM17.4 billion; 0.47 per cent of the total budget or 0.98 per cent of the 2021 Malaysian GDP, which is much lower than the 1.5 per cent sought by the Armed Forces shortly before the presentation of the budget.
The operational expenditure for 2023 is RM11.4 billion (RM11.1 billion for 2022) and the development expenditure is RM5.964 billion, an increase of some RM900 million from the 2022 figure of RM5.039 billion. This mean there is an increase of around RM1.3 billion for defence in the 2023 budget. However, in US dollar terms, it is a decrease of around US$200 million.
It was for this reason, Muhamad said that they will continue with the procurement of the MPA and MALE UAS, together with the planned purchase of the 155mm SPH; Malbatt replacement APC and the High Mobility Armoured Vehicle (HMAV). Former Defence Minister DS Hishammuddin Hussein announced the procurement of the HMAV together with unarmoured 4X4 vehicles under a contract worth some RM2.04 billion shortly after the proposed budget was tabled in Parliament.
It is unclear however whether the new minister and the Finance Ministry are aware that both the HMAV and 155mm SPH were awarded LOIs through direct negotiations instead of tender. Hopefully, the people in the defence and finance ministries will ensure of the fact before awarding the Letter of Award (LOA). That said the LOAs might already been signed.
Anyhow, despite saying the LCS project will be revived, Muhamad said he will table the proposal for the resumption at the Cabinet soon. Hopefully, by then we will know how much it will cost.
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