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Tunisia - Military Budget

Between 2003 and 2013, Tunisia spent less than 2% of GDP on its military annually. Its estimated $528 million military outlay in 2010 was the smallest military expenditure in North Africa. As of 2015, Tunisias military expenses amounted to $1.1 billion dollars compared to $528 million in 2010, the year preceding the Arab Spring. Tunisia went from spending 1.51% of its GDP on the military at that time to 2.32% in 2016.

Lacking any hope of absolute defense and preferring to invest in domestic programs, the Tunisian government had long been content to maintain a military establishment of modest size and limited combat effectiveness compared with those of its neighbors. Throughout its history as an independent nation, Tunisia has maintained a record of having probably the smallest defense budget among all countries in the Arab world. Investment in impressive weaponry for the sake of prestige has never been a policy of the governing regime.

By the 1980s, however, even Tunisia's relatively small armed forces become extremely costly. In 1985 the defense force consisted of a predominant army of 30,000 officers and men, a small navy of 2,600, and an air force and 2,500; collectively these forces were designated the Tunisian National Army. The military and a largely paramilitary police system were key elements in a defense strategy that called on the security forces to provide credible deterrence against external aggressive threats and, failing that, to deal effectively with minor incursions until assistance arrived from friendly states.

The effort to improve the ANT's equipment and training has proved more costly than expected; rising military costs and a continuing need for foreign military assistance have come to characterize Tunisia's military development. Under pressures generated mainly by Libya, the Tunisian government in the late 1970s stepped up its program of military modernization and defined its strategy as one of "comprehensive people's defense."

According to Minister of National Defense Abdullah Farhat in 1976, the republic's defense policy depended on two factors: a favorable external climate guaranteed by the leaders of friendly countries throughout the world and creation of a domestic climate that would make Tunisians feel they had something to defend. Further, the strengthening of the ANT was not only a question of quantity but also one of establishing cadres qualified in the modern technologies.

Since the late 1970s, all of the armed services had been undergoing expansion and modernization designed to improve their defenses against attack from potentially hostile states. Although the improvements have been extremely costly, the worsened relationship with Libya and the vulnerability demonstrated by the Israeli raid have heightened concern about Tunisia's military weaknesses. The president in 1985 therefore directed his government to explore with its friends and allies in the Arab world and the West the possibility of assistance in making new large-scale purchases of aircraft, armor, and naval vessels.

In the 1980s, efforts to improve the armed forces' capabilities had strained a national budget oriented primarily toward economic and social development. Although spending increased to higher levels than Tunisian policymakers - and citizens-had been accustomed to, military spending as a percentage of total government expenditure or national income was still among the lowest in the region. Given continued political tensions in the Maghrib and the perceived need to modernize the relatively small armed forces, it appeared that military spending would continue to occupy a prominent place in the national budget.

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
$ bn 0.47 0.49 0.49 0.55 0.61
% 9.2 4.3 0.0 12.2 10.9
% 1.6 1.59 1.4 1.35 1.4
The defense budget was drawn up annually by the national planning authorities in the Ministry of Finance and the president's office in consultation with the Ministry of National Defense. Although military officers historically have not exercised a major role in the process, greater military expenditures in the 1980s suggested that this pattern might be changing. In a shift from earlier approaches, most military spending in the early and mid-1980s came out of the capital budget. Capital expenditures in Tunisia included much of the new hardware being acquired during that time and contrasted with current expenditures, which were primarily composed of the costs related to salaries, benefits, maintenance, and fuel.

From independence until 1979 Tunisia had never devoted as much as 2 percent of its estimated gross national product (GNP) to defense expenditures. During this period the military's share of the total government budget was consistently less than 5 percent, and combined government expenditures on health and education normally accounted for more than five times the amount spent on defense.

Beginning in 1979, however, when the country began to order new equipment to modernize its armed forces, total defense spending rose dramatically. From a level of TD36.8 million (Tunisian dinar) in 1978 (4.4 percent of the total national budget for that year), military spending skyrocketed to TD1477 million (14.9 percent of the national budget). Defense costs as a percentage of central government expenditures lessened over the next several years, except in 1982, when the government made a large purchase of arms from the United States. According to Tunisia's 1985 budget, TD1O2.6 million (9.9 percent of the government's current expenditures) was devoted to defense. The Ministry of National Defense also received TD122.5 million (10.9 percent of the total) from the government's capital budget. By contrast, government spending on education amounted to nearly TD300 million (13.7 percent of the total government budget). Public spending on health was somewhat less, accounting for some 7.7 percent of the total 1985 budget.

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Page last modified: 27-09-2018 18:40:06 ZULU