Saudi Arabia, UAE to shoot up GCC military spending growth

Saudi Arabia, UAE to shoot up GCC military spending growth
A spike in military spending by Saudi Arabia and the UAE would result in an expected $100 billion to be spent on defence by the GCC in 2019 alone.
3 min read
07 September, 2018
Saudi Arabia and the UAE seek to become self reliant militarily [Getty]

The Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) military spending will reach a record high next year, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE expanding their armed forces as conflicts across the Middle East and North Africa region continue.

According to an IHS Markit report released on Thursday, increasing budgets in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would result in an expected $100 billion to be spent on defence by the GCC in 2019 alone.

Extortionate military spending is not new to the GCC, which has been responsible for nearly one quarter of all global defence imports since 2014, valuing at $56 billion.

This year, military spending of both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi grew by six percent.

Despite the extensive growth, both countries still anticipate boosting their military industrial bases, which is drawing concerns as both countries enforce authority across, as per their foriegn policies.

Policies include orchestrating a devastating coalition on Yemen, blockading fellow GCC member state Qatar and even planning to build an artificial maritime border under the pretext of “security”.

Late last month a senior adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared to confirm reports that the kingdom is digging a canal to separate Qatar from the mainland and turn it into an island.

But as growth remains a priority with ambitious policies for Saudi Arabia and the UAE, defence budget is expected to slow down over the coming years.

After this year and next year's peak in defence spending, Jane’s Defence Budgets has forecasted growth of spending to decline to between three and four percent over the next five years.

This means the GCC defence spending will reach $117 billion by 2023, with $86 billion to be spent on defence gear over the next five years.

Peace over profits

Self-reliance has become a priority for both countries and those selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and coalition allies have been put under immense pressure to halt the arms trade since a Riyadh-led coalition began a war on Yemen in 2015.

On Tuesday, Spain announced that it cancelled a 2015 deal to sell 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition fighting rebels in Yemen.

A defence ministry spokesman confirmedCadena Ser radio report that said Spain's new Socialist government planned to return the $10.6 million already paid by the Saudis for the arms under a deal signed by the previous conservative administration.

The spokesman declined to elaborate but the announcement comes after an August airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition battling rebels in Yemen that killed dozens of civilians, including 40 children.

The incident sparked a wave of international anger and calls by the United Nations Security Council for a "credible and transparent" investigation.

Human Rights Watch said the airstrike could amount to a "war crime".

More than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict since March 2015, 2,200 of them children, and sparked what the UN has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.