Strategic Weapons' Shopping Spree
Strange, opaque and not in accordance with the state finances that are in a mess, the plan by the defense minister to buy weapons must be cancelled. The finance minister must not remain silent.
THE desire of the defense minister to purchase a range of the primary weapons systems worth over Rp1,760 trillion during this pandemic is an overreaction, is showing off and reflects a state of paranoia.
It is an overreaction and is showing off because the plan is not appropriate given the state of the nation’s finances that are under pressure because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is paranoid because this desire is based upon baseless fears of threats from outside. On top of this, the fantastic amount of money and the obligation to spend the budget until 2024 may well make people suspect that this purchase is designed as a source of funding in the run up to the presidential election in three years’ time.
The plan by Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto included in the proposed Presidential Regulation on the procurement and maintenance of defense equipment is now the subject of much discussion. The justification for buying the weapons, to preserve sovereignty, is difficult to believe because the defense ministry does not provide a clear road map. There has never been a transparent explanation of how important it is to buy these weapons and how serious the threat to sovereignty is such that it needs to be guarded by dozens of submarines and fighter jets as proposed by Prabowo.
And unlike the usual procedure, the three branches of the Indonesian Military (TNI) have not proposed this procurement. There is an unpleasant aroma because Prabowo specifically appointed Teknologi Militer Indonesia (TMI) to undertake this procurement.
This direct appointment clearly short cuts the procedures for the supply of goods and services. On top of this, four members of Gerindra, the political party led by Prabowo, control TMI. One of these four is Glenny Kairupan, and old TNI friend of Prabowo and a member of the Gerindra Party Advisory Council.
Prabowo’s secrecy over the arms budget further worsens the public control over the military budget. Without oversight, procurement of weapons systems worth over Rp1,760 trillion could go awry. In the last 10 years, there have been a number of corruption cases related to the purchase of weapon systems. One that stands out is the corruption over the supply of F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters from 2010 to 2014.
Prabowo, founder and chairman of the Gerindra Party should rein himself in. Given the claim that the party cares about the lives of ordinary people, Prabowo should realize that the limited state funds would be better spent on strengthening micro, small and medium enterprises currently struggling financially as a result of the pandemic.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani, who is usually quick to complain about budget matters, must not stay silent. Given that she has the authority to reject projects not in line with the budget, she must not allow herself to be swept away by political currents. At present the House of Representatives (DPR) is of the same mind as Prabowo. Sri Mulyani must have the courage to say no even if this would put her at odds with most members of the DPR.
The finance minister could explain the difficulties with this spending plan from the budgetary aspect. As it would be paid for by export credits, in other words foreign debt, this procurement would add to the burden of the state. As of the first quarter of this year, Indonesia’s foreign debt stood at US$422.6 billion, equivalent to Rp6,196.96 trillion. Adding to this debt to buy weapons would only be a burden on the people in the future.
President Joko Widodo must cancel this plan. Even if he did ask Prabowo to draw up a strategic defense plan, he must not allow this inappropriate plan to go ahead in violation of all regulations.