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Defense budget overview: Prabowo has upper hand in upcoming debate

Jakarta Globe - January 2, 2024

Thomas Rizal, Jakarta – As the world's largest archipelagic nation, defense emerges as a crucial issue in maintaining national sovereignty. Without a robust defense, conducive security, and protection for citizens, effective development in the homeland becomes challenging.

Notably, the nation's defense has been a primary focus during President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's nine-year leadership and will be the main theme of the upcoming presidential debate on Jan. 7, 2024.

According to Global Firepower (GFP) 2023, Indonesia has the 13th biggest number of military personnel out of 145 countries worldwide, surpassing nations like Australia (16th), Iran (17th), and even Israel (18th).

In Asia, Indonesia is ranked 6th, trailing behind China (3rd), India (4th), South Korea (6th), Pakistan (7th), and Japan (8th). Within the Southeast Asian region (ASEAN), Indonesia leads the pack above Vietnam (19th), Thailand (24th), and Singapore (29th), known for having the highest defense budget in the region.

GFP notes that Indonesia has 1.08 million military personnel, consisting of 400,000 active personnel, 400,000 reserves, and 280,000 paramilitaries. The Army is supported by 314 tanks and 12,008 armored vehicles, while the Air Force has 466 aircraft, and the Navy has 324 main weapons systems

Military analyst Khairul Fahmi from the Institute for Security and Strategic Studies warns of potential threats if Indonesia fails to modernize its defense equipment. These threats stem from perceived weaknesses in national resilience, particularly due to the suboptimal condition of the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) three branches.

Khairul noted that Indonesia's current defense budget is approximately only 0.7 percent to 0.8 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is relatively low for a country of Indonesia's magnitude.

"Compared to neighboring countries, Indonesia has a relatively small defense budget, even when compared to young nations like Timor Leste," Khairul said.

He highlighted that Singapore allocates around 6 percent of its GDP to defense, while Timor Leste has reached 1.2 percent. Although nominal comparisons may not always be relevant, Khairul underscored Timor Leste's bold move to allocate a higher percentage than Indonesia.

"We hope that in the future, Indonesia can allocate 1 percent of GDP to defense. An increase in the budget is needed to ensure the maintenance and procurement of defense equipment and not overlook the welfare of the military personnel," he added.

Earlier, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani revealed an increase in the defense spending budget for the 2020-2024 period by around $4 billion (Rp 61.7 trillion) to $25 billion.

In the 2024 State Budget, the Ministry of Defense has an allocation of Rp 139.27 trillion, ranking second only to the Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR) with Rp 147.37 trillion.

Within the Ministry of Defense, a significant portion of the funds, amounting to Rp 22.25 trillion, is allocated for the modernization of defense equipment, non-equipment, and defense infrastructure. Additionally, there is an allocation of Rp 2.10 trillion for management support programs.

The Indonesian Army Headquarters receives the largest allocation of funds at Rp 58.14 trillion, followed by the Indonesian Navy Headquarters with Rp 25.96 trillion, and the Indonesian Air Force Headquarters with Rp 18.79 trillion.

Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto emphasizes the necessity of a strong defense for a large nation like Indonesia.

"Defense is vital for every nation. A nation whose defense is not prepared will be disturbed, pressured, oppressed, and threatened. Buying military equipment is different from buying groceries in the supermarket, the process takes 4-5 years," Prabowo said.

Presidential debate focuses on defense and geopolitics

The upcoming presidential candidate debate on Sunday will center around defense, security, international relations, and geopolitics. Khairul Fahmi emphasizes that national defense is a crucial issue that should be the focus of the next leader after President Jokowi.

"I appreciate the General Election Commission (KPU) for raising this issue as the theme of the 2024 presidential candidate debate because, in any case, the defense issue must be mastered by the next leader. Thus, the public can also see each candidate's capability in mastering this theme," Khairul said.

The three pairs of presidential and vice-presidential candidates have outlined their visions, missions, and programs related to Indonesia's defense. As the defense minister, Prabowo, who is running as a presidential candidate, is considered capable of mastering this theme.

"That's Prabowo's expertise, in line with his duty as the defense minister. We are confident that Prabowo has prepared for this," said the Deputy Chairman of the National Campaign Team (TKN) for Prabowo, Akbar Himawan Muchari.

Akbar said Prabowo will provide detailed explanations and present to the public the accomplishments and plans related to strengthening the nation's defense.

Prabowo has placed the strengthening of the nation's defense and security, as well as the maintenance of conducive international relations, as one of the 17 priority programs. This is also included in the Eight Missions of Asta Cita, which is to solidify the national defense and security system and encourage the nation's self-sufficiency through food, energy, water, creative economy, green economy, and blue economy.

Source: https://jakartaglobe.id/news/defense-budget-overview-prabowo-has-upper-hand-in-upcoming-debat