Sunday, April 12, 2009

Oman tops the world in Military Expenditure?

It well known that the Middle Eastern countries like to spend on their Military. (There's a nice description and photos of the recent IDEX 9th International Defence Exhibition and Conference held at the Abu Dhabi Exhibition center last month here at the Magnum website.)

A friendly arms dealer snapped in Abu Dhabi last month. Photo ripped from Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Interesting statement in the comments section caught my eye:
Oman is listed as the No. 1 country in the world for Military expenditure as a % of GDP (of countries where such data is available, so in reality we probably get beaten into 2nd place by North Korea).

The full list is available from the ever helpful Central Intelligence Agency here. And there we are, proudly at the number 1 spot.

Country Military expenditures (% of GDP)

1 Oman 11.4% 2005 est.

2 Qatar 10.0% 2005 est.
3 Saudi Arabia 10.0% 2005 est.
4 Iraq 8.6% 2006
5 Jordan 8.6% 2006
6 Israel 7.3% 2006
7 Yemen 6.6% 2006
8 Armenia 6.5% FY01
9 Eritrea 6.3% 2006 est.
10 Macedonia 6.0% 2005 est.
11 Burundi 5.9% 2006 est.
12 Syria 5.9% 2005 est.
13 Angola 5.7% 2006
14 Mauritania 5.5% 2006
15 Maldives 5.5% 2005 est.
16 Kuwait 5.3% 2006
17 Turkey 5.3% 2005 est.
18 El Salvador 5.0% 2006
19 Morocco 5.0% 2003 est.
20 Singapore 4.9% 2005 est.

Of course, the trick with this No. 1 rank is based on % GDP, and I understand also includes ROP.

In absolute spending terms (based on 2002 purchasing power parity data), Oman only ranks around 50th out of 164 in a 2004 report to the US Congress.

On % GDP, we still came out top in the GCC, and 4th Globally.

In terms of GCC absolute spend though, we're not too bad. In the 2004 report the estimates are (2002 spend in US$)
Saudi Arabia: $22.2 bln
Kuwait: $3.5 bln
United Arab Emirates: ~$2.8 bln
Oman: $2.7 bln
Qatar: $1.9 bln
Bahrain: 0.33 bln

This is one of the reasons Oman is a safe country to live in. It's security we do pay for!

But perhaps we can improve the transparency of our reporting a bit, and get off the no. 1 spot... I think its hardly a ranking we deserve, as Oman is not overtly militarised...


  1. I think the heading is quite misleading, what does a list of expenditure as a % of GDP means??? I believe nothing. Look at the location of Oman an you will understand why it is forced to have quite a budget for military and security forces. It has a vast coastal area which is used by drug dealers from Pakistan and Afghanistan and illegal immigrants from the Indian subcontinent to gain access to the GCC. Look at all the Omani military divisions and you will notice that all their weapons are of defensive nature, no long range missiles, chemical or biological weapons. So it is not fair to put it in the same category of North Korea just because of the % factor.

    "This is one of the reasons Oman is a safe country to live in. It's security we do pay for!"

    I don't think security is something you can buy. I give credit here to all the security and police authorities for doing a great job of keeping Oman safe.

    I'm surprised with all the heat Iran is taking they are not even in the top 25??? and where did the greatest aggressor & Co. go, I don't see them in the list???

  2. Omani efforts appear to be focused on internal security (enough problems, with the brotherly neighbour on top sending their message into Oman and problems out west in Yemen, with a large number of AQ operatives taking refuge in the area). It's probably concerned abut Yemen because of the past problems.

    Then there is the threat of Iran, so to deal with this threat, Oman would need to position anti ballistic missiles to protect the War material reserve in Seeb etc. To defend against iran, Oman would need a strong navy. For example, the strategy in the UAE is to take the fight away from the land and into the sea, so much so, at the expense of the Army or land based defence. So most of the money will go into building the navy. Same goes for KSA.

    Due to this threat, Oman has signed deals with India and the US.

  3. I am not a military person. But one of the things I think the Sultanate gets 'spot on' is Security. I understand our Sultan attended Sandhurst Academy in UK, so he has a good appreciation of military matters- and it shows. I have some friends from the Omani Military and they are all very professional people. I am very happy to have them 'on the wall.' Abd

  4. ...and to pay for it all...

  5. Hmm.. seeing it the way it is, I think they needed some other qualifier to make the report/graph more balanced. Maybe a weighted factor that includes the total gross GDP (no %ages).
    I mean, no US, Iran, not even Pakistan/India? Pakistan purportedly allotted 35% of its GDP around the start of the Musharraf era. Even as late as 2006, with all the political turmoil, it had managed to spend 25% of its budget on the mil.

    And still they managed to get a report with Oman on top? Now that's cleverly cheeky!


  6. Pakistan doesn't spend anything on defence (they are officially bankrupt), they get it for free courtesy US and China. India spends close to 2% of its GDP on defence, which people still complain about.

    The graph does need to be shown better though.

  7. these are statistics on how much is spent...not stolen or exchanged under the dark of night or given. Only recorded.

    Interesting report...I do believe we pay for our safety.


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