Egypt’s military expenditure is the lowest in the region, at 2-2.5 percent of total GDP, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in the second part of an extended interview with three of Egypt’s state-owned newspapers on Monday, adding that additional expenditure comes from private military funds.
Sisi clarified that additional military funding for development and militarization comes from the Armed Forces’ savings, accrued over the last 25 years, not out of the state budget, adding that this decision was made so as not to place extra strain on the national budget.
He asserted that Egypt’s Armed Forces does not directly contract projects, but rather oversees them, and praised the Armed Forces for its role in controlling the prices of food staples.
According to figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which monitors global military spending, as well as the World Bank, which published similar data, Egypt’s military expenditure accounted for around 1.7 of the nation’s total GDP in 2015, compared to Saudi Arabia, which stood at 13.7, Israel at 5.4 and Oman at 16.2.
Questions about the exact amount of military expenditure have increasingly been raised, particularly following the 2011 revolution, as the Armed Forces’ budget continues to have limited civilian oversight.
Renewed attention on the military budget also comes as Egypt continues to embark on an arms spending spree, and Sisi seeks to diversify procurement away from the US through a series of loans and direct financing investments, including multi-billion-dollar purchases from both France and Germany. In the past 18 months alone, Egypt has become France’s biggest arms client, purchasing $8 billion worth of weapons and services.
Robert Springborg, an expert on the Egyptian military and former professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, says Egypt’s military economy and budget is entirely opaque, making it difficult to garner any accurate information as to where financing comes from, aside from what President Sisi says.
“What profits and losses might be and where those profits go is simply unknown. In this situation of complete opacity, he [Sisi] can say anything,” Springborg told Mada Masr, adding that the figures mentioned by the president do not include procurement from overseas suppliers, such as France, the US, Russia, etc., partly because the full details and conditions of such deals are not made public.
Independent figures from Transparency International’s Government Defense Anti-Corruption Index ranked Egypt in 2015 in the highest risk category for corruption in the defense and security sectors.