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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Georgia will not meet 2% NATO standard: draft budget

Georgia: Representatives of both opposition and the ruling party noted that funding for Ministry of Defence in draft budget for 2023 is not enough.

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Georgia: Representatives of both the opposition and the ruling party noted that the funding for the Ministry of Defence in the draft budget for 2023 is not enough. In light of the current security risks, they speak of the need to increase the defence budget by tightening belts in other departments.

What will be the budget of the Ministry of Defence in 2023?

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According to the draft state budget for 2023, the Ministry of Defence is provided with 1.26 billion lari, which exceeds the approved plan for 2022 by 257.6 million lari.

The amount allocated to the Ministry of Defence includes the following:

A 20 percent increase in the wages of military personnel, given that the wage fund of the ministry as a whole is 605 million lari; 100 million lari is provided for the development of defence infrastructure and the construction of apartments for soldiers; 174.4 million lari was allocated for the development of defence capability.

According to the draft budget for 2023, the nominal gross domestic product is projected at 79.6 billion lari; in accordance with this, the defence budget will be 1.58% of Georgia’s GDP, and according to the NATO standard, the defence budget should be at least 2% of GDP countries.

The NATO standard also stipulates that at least 20% of the defence budget should be spent on developing defence capabilities. However, the draft budget of Georgia for 2023 allocates 174.4 million lari for this direction – only 13.84% of the defence budget.

This standard became one of the main topics in the discussion of the draft budget in the Defence and Security Committee.

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“The budget is inadequate.”

The oppositionists pointed out to representatives of the ministries of finance and defence that the 2023 budget does not meet NATO standards and the country’s tasks.

The leadership agreed that at least 2% of GDP should be allocated to the defence budget.

As the Parliamentary Committee chairman on Defence and Security, Irakli Beraya, noted, due to the security situation in Georgia, the defence budget should be not only 2% of GDP but much more. Replying to the opposition, he mentioned the difference between the budget of the Ministry of Defence and the budget for defence.

However, Teona Akubardia, a Strategy Agmashenebeli, told Netgazeti that this definition of the defence budget is manipulative and officials are trying to deceive the public. As Akubardia explains, when talking about the defence budget, the government is trying to include other departments, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, along with the defence forces, and thus calculate the share of defence concerning GDP.

In her opinion, the calculation of the defence budget according to this principle, i.e. the inclusion of other bodies in the defence forces, in addition to the structural units that are part of the Ministry of Defence, is carried out during the war years, and not in the situation that has developed in the country at present.

“According to the law, during martial law, the relevant units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are included in the defence forces. For the last two years, during my work in parliament, when speaking about the budget, they try to deceive the public because 2% of GDP comes from the defence budget. They turn on the Ministry of Internal Affairs forces and think so,” Teona Akubardia said.

In a conversation with Netgazeti, Akubardia recalled the budget of the Ministry of Defence from the time of former Minister Levan Izoria. In 2019, Izoria flaunted that the distribution of the defence budget was in line with NATO standards and even earned praise from the NATO Secretary General because, at that time, 24% of the country’s defence budget was directed directly to armaments, thereby even exceeding NATO standards.

Georgian Dream member and ex-commander of the defence forces Vladimir Chachibaia agrees that the defence budget does not meet either NATO standards or the country’s defence needs. Chachibaia also believes that, given current events in the region and the situation in Ukraine, it is important to increase the defence budget. “If some sectors tighten their belts and a course is taken to strengthen the defence capability of our country, it would be nice,” Vladimir Chachibaia said.

The amount of money allocated for developing defence capabilities in the draft budget for 2023 was criticized by a member of the National Movement and a former military commander, General Devi Chankotadze.

“174 million lari is provided to purchase new equipment and ammunition. Where are you getting these numbers from? The biggest problem is the lack of the number of anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems necessary for the army. If you translate this number into dollars, you get 62 million. One hundred Israeli iron domes cost 50 million, and you can only buy one hundred [with that money]. That is, this amount is not enough. If we take Tbilisi, Tbilisi needs five hundred of these, and how can we buy them for this amount?” asks Devi Chankotadze.

Another MP who disagrees with the defence budget in the 2023 draft budget is Aleko Elisashvili, a member of the Citizens party. According to him, the project proposed by the Ministry of Finance is “inadequate”.

According to Elisashvili, all the countries neighbouring Georgia have learned and increased their defence budgets, and Georgia has the smallest defence budget. “When I said this was inadequate, I said that we have a budget for the country’s development and not a military budget. Neighbouring Russia, the occupier, accuses us and Bulgaria of involvement in the transfer of tons of explosives. The bridge of strategic importance, most likely, was blown up by the Ukrainians. Now Russia will say that counterintelligence has collapsed, which means that later it will stretch out its hands to others, including us, and only God knows what will happen,” Elisashvili said.

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