Gulf states’ defence budgets to hit $100bn in 2019: report

In the next five years, military spending by the six GCC countries is likely to reach $117bn.

Saudi military equipment
Involvement in crises in Syria, Libya, and Yemen have significantly increased defence budgets of GCC nations [Faisal al-Nasser/Reuters]

Gulf states’ military spending is expected to hit $100bn for the first time next year, a leading defence analyst said.

A report published on Thursday in Jane’s by IHS Markit said the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries registered six percent growth in military expenditures in 2018.

“The six percent growth that we’ve seen this year is expected to slow, but growth rates of three to four percent a year are sustainable over the next decade, meaning that defence spending is likely to hit a record $100bn next year,” Jane’s analyst Craig Caffrey said.

“If we see any significant increases in oil prices we will probably see further growth or, at the very least, more procurement activity,” he added.

The GCC includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

A major driving factor behind the increase in defence procurement has been the involvement of GCC armies in conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen.

These long-term operations have led to an increase in spending on military equipment, intelligence gathering and the bolstering of combat aircraft fleets.

The blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt since June last year has also led to GCC countries trying to bolster their military capabilities.

Jane’s predicted defence spending by GCC countries will continue to increase in the next five years and is likely to reach $117bn by 2023.

North America and Europe provide about 95 percent of all defence equipment acquired by the Gulf states, with the United States alone accounting for about half of all the exports in the last five years.

However, GCC countries have also begun to look at other suppliers such as Russia, China, Turkey, and Australia for their defence needs.

Source: Al Jazeera