Refuting all claims of a shrinking defence budget, the Indian Finance Minister announced a 5% increase in the defence budget for 2013-14. Coming at a time of increasing defence spending, and more recently, allegations of corruption during procurement, how can India put the new budget to effective use?
By Aakash Brahmachari
Mar. 5 – In an effort to dismiss any talk of compromising on defence, the Budget for 2013-2014 has increased India’s Defence Budget by 5% from last year to Rs. 2,03,672 crores ($42.5 billion). This includes Rs. 86, 741 crores ($16 billion) on arms acquisitions which is a hike of 9% over last year. Even as this will ensure India remains a leading arms importer, it will be a welcome relief if these purchases are not tainted by allegations of corruption.
Reports from the ‘Choppergate’ scandal indicate that middlemen were paid about Rs. 162 crores ($30million) to swing the decision in AgustaWestland’s favour.
This is worth about 4% of the Rs. 3,700 crores ($750 million) deal. A quick calculation reveals that if the rate of commission remains constant, middlemen stand to make Rs. 215 crores ($40 million) for every Rs. 5, 375 crores ($1 billion) worth of Indian arms acquisitions. In other words, though the new budget worth Rs. 86, 741 crores may be spread across different deals, it can still potentially net middlemen a commission of Rs. 3,440 crores ($640 million). In a nation of 1.2 billion citizens, that amounts to each citizen sharing a burden of about Rs. 20 ($0.5) for these commissions.
What can Rs. 3, 440 crores buy?