Bolsonaro Increases Military Spending in First Year of Government

In 2019, the defense spent US$ 1.46 billion more than had been forecasted

São Paulo

In Jair Bolsonaro's first year as President, the Ministry of Defense benefitted the most with the largest budget increase. The ministry ended 2019 spending R$ 6.3 billion (US$ 1.46 billion) more than had been initially forecast.

Three other ministries surpass Defense in expansion, but they are extraordinary cases.

The ministry of economy and citizenship added several portfolios under their budget, and the funds from the auction of onerous oil transfer passed through the coffers of Mines and Energy—which does not mean expenditure.

In addition to a larger budget, the military scored other victories. Many of the leaders in Bolsonaro's government come from the military, and it won the approval of its pension and career reform, something they have been demanding for two decades. 

With 8 of 22 ministers from the armed forces, Bolsonaro has one of the most militarized governments in history.

President Jair Bolsonaro and the minister of Defense, Fernando Azevedo e Silva. Foto: Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil

The Defense budget in 2019 recorded R$ 109.9 billion (US$ 25 billion) in spending, according to Siga Brasil, the federal Senate's system of tracking revenues and expenses. This makes the ministry the fourth largest in terms of funds.

The figure is 10.9% higher than the previous year and is probably one of the largest in history in nominal terms - the Siga Brasil base only has comparable data until 2001.

In this century, however, military spending has been constant as a percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The most significant jump occurred in investments, from R$ 9.5 billion (US$ 2.20 billion) to R$ 15.9 billion (US$ 3.69 billion), or 14.5% of the total military budget.

The investment budget portion is far from that registered by developed countries in the military field, such as the USA (29%). Still, it is more than the 11.8% recorded in 2018, already in values corrected by the IPCA. It is the largest amount allocated to investments in the total budget of the Union, 28%.

Personnel expenses follow the historical trend of dominating military spending: 73.3% went to the item, or R$ 80.5 billion (US$ 18.68 billion). Of this amount, R$ 47.7 billion (US$ 11 billion) is earmarked for inactive military, including the payment of pensions.

Brazilian military spending has oscillated, in recent years, around 1.5% of GDP - in 2019, it was 1.51%.

It is a value compatible with European levels, where the goal of NATO (Western military alliance) is an expenditure of 2% of GDP on Defense, but this percentage does not include inactive military expenditures. 

In the most respected ranking in the industry, that of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, Brazil appears in 11th place in gross expenditure with its military.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

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