Jamaica’s military expenditure in a global spend climb
Audley Rodriques

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), global military spending rose to US$2.1 trillion in 2021, a 0.7 per cent increase in real terms over 2020.

The five big spenders, which combined accounted for 62 per cent of global military expenditure, were the United States (US$801 billion), China (US$293 billion), India (US$76.6 billion), the United Kingdom (US$68 billion), and Russia (US$65.9 billion).

The United States, which spent more on its military than the next 10 countries combined, spent more than two- and-a-half times the amount spent by China, the second-largest spender, and more than 12 times that spent by Russia, the fifth-largest spender.

As outlined in its national defence and security strategies, which have broad bipartisan support, the US is determined to maintain its military’s technological edge over its two main strategic competitors — a rising, determined-to-catch-up China and revanchist, determined-to-restore-lost-glory Russia. The US is currently engaged in a hot imperial proxy war with Russia in Ukraine. The stated objective of the US is a defeated and weakened Russia. Russia is seeking to prevent Ukraine from becoming a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Yet there are far more complex geopolitical reasons for the war. The war and the sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries are having severe consequences for the already crisis-ridden global economy. The risk of nuclear conflagration is great.

US military spending of US$801 billion in 2021, a fall of 1.4 per cent from 2020, decreased from 3.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 to 3.5 per cent in 2021. Russia’s military expenditure increased by 2.9 per cent in 2021 to US$65.9 billion, 4.1 per cent of GDP, at a time when it was preparing to invade its neighbour, Ukraine. China allocated US$293 billion to its military in 2021, an increase of 4.7 per cent over the amount it spent in 2020.

(It has been estimated that four times the United States’ military budget for one year could end global poverty forever.)

Jamaica, which does not have a war fighting and is not expecting one, spent US$210 million or $32.5 billion (1.4 per cent of GDP) on its military in 2021, a decline of 11.6 per cent on the US$237 million ($36.7 billion) it spent in 2020. However, over the last decade, there has been a significant increase in Jamaica’s military expenditure. The Jamaica Labour Party Government, which came to power in 2016, took the view that crime represented “an insidious obstacle to growth” and, with International Monetary Fund support, and international encouragement, set about expanding security spending.

Between 2017 and 2019, there was a whopping increase of 85 per cent in Jamaica’s military expenditure from US$144 million to US$266million ($41.2 billion) to expand the size of the military, make it better equipped, and increase its role in crime-fighting. The police have been made more militarised. The boys were provided with fancy toys.

The relationship among crime (homicide as well as social murder), police/military killings of civilians, states of emergency (SOEs), zones of special operations (ZOZO), police and soldiers killed, and military expenditure is worth a thorough examination. It might also be useful to examine Jamaica’s military burden and its consequence for social and other expenditure, including that for health, education and housing, and economic growth.

The big question that should be asked is: Has Jamaica and its people benefited from the significant increase in military expenditure in recent years?

Audley Rodriques

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