Regional rivals in search of a bigger bang

Published in Gulf States News, 18 February 2016

Government budgets may be under heavy pressure as a result of the sharp fall in oil revenues, but one area that still seems well protected is defence. An analysis of military spending patterns by the London-based think-tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), released in early February, shows expenditure on the region’s armed forces is still growing, albeit at a slower rate than in the recent past.

Data published in The Military Balance 2016 show that Saudi Arabia’s military budget last year was $81.9bn, the world’s third largest behind the United States and China, up from $80.8bn a year before. The Bahraini and Omani military budgets also increased. Of the countries where data is available for 2015, only Kuwait seems to have curtailed its spending in dollar terms – and even here military spending rose as a percentage of GDP.

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