Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania told lawmakers on July 25 that he wants 11% increase in MoD’s budget next year.
GEL 660 million is allocated to the Ministry of Defense (MoD) in 2014; the same amount of funding was allocated in 2013.
“Amid threats existing in the region, especially after Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine, increase of defense spending has emerged as one of the priorities not only in Georgia, but in other European countries as well, including NATO-member states,” Defense Minister Alasania said.
Speaking at government’s meeting with opposition UNM lawmakers, held on Friday as part of parliamentary confirmation hearings of the reshuffled cabinet, Alasania said that MoD plans to spend most of the additional funding on “trainings and measures that we plan to undertake for improvement of our defensive armament.”
Also on July 25 at parliamentary committee hearings, Alasania said that he’s ready to meet lawmakers, including the opposition, behind the closed doors to brief them about “how negotiations are ongoing” over obtaining anti-tank and air defense systems.
“I am optimistic that these negotiations will be completed in a rational timeframe,” Alasania said.
He also said that it has been agreed within the security and crisis management council of the government to allocate funds for obtaining defensive systems not directly from MoD’s budget, but on top of that from other sources, which he did not specify.
During the parliamentary hearings UNM lawmakers criticized the government for reducing MoD’s budget from GEL 734.7 million in 2012 to GEL 660 million in each of the following two years.
Defense spending peaked in 2008 to GEL 1.5 billion, declining to GEL 879 million in 2009, GEL 728 million in 2010 and GEL 711 million in 2011; MoD’s funding stood at GEL 734.7 million in 2012.
Alasania said that the current government is using available funds much more efficiently and “the armed forces are now in much better conditions”, including in terms of increased salaries and benefits, then they were in previous years.
He also offered lawmakers from the UNM parliamentary minority group a closed-door meeting to brief them about the findings of a lessons learned report from the August, 2008 war with Russia, drawn by the general staff. Alasania told UNM MPs that they would see after studying this report how inefficiently up to GEL 8 billion was spent in the defense sector since 2004.
“Of course I will not start speaking publicly about it now, but I am ready to discuss it with you, so let’s meet and I am sure that this report will give answers to all of those questions you are concerned about,” Alasania told UNM MPs.
He also said that that construction of construction of a new military base will soon be over in Khoni, western Georgia.
Alasania also said that construction of a new training base is planned in Akhalkalaki at the venue, which hosted Russian military base before it was pulled out in 2007.
“This is the project of huge social and political importance,” Alasania said, referring to the planned new base in Akhalkalaki, a predominantly ethnic Armenian populated town in Samtskhe-Javakheti region. He said that local population will benefit from this base as they will be able to be employed in construction and then also be involved in supply of the base with various agriculture products.