Singapore Increases Military Spending as Geopolitical Tensions Rise

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Singaporean authorities have increased military expenditures to upgrade its military while presenting a strong front during the South China Sea territorial dispute, according to Reuters. Contractors, such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, value Singapore’s business due to the city-state’s lucrative economic growth and timely payment history. Many nations in Asia have increased military spending because of higher economic growth and increased nationalism.

Singapore is primarily looking to update its Super Puma helicopters, and contractors, such as Finmeccanica and Airbus, are in the running to receive a $1 billion contract to provide new military helicopters. In recent years, the government has also invested more money in cyber security, artificial intelligence, and drones.

Moreover, authorities will upgrade rescue helicopters, including maritime hardware to enhance border patrols. Leaders are launching a full-scale modernization of Singapore’s old equipment while aiming to build one of the strongest armed forces in the region. Singapore is a small city-state, but has the largest air force in Southeast Asia and wishes to build upon its military might as a buffer against domination from world powers. Military spending will increase from $9.08 billion in 2015 to $10.72 billion in 2017, and officials devote 20% of spending to defense.

Military contracts in Asia are becoming big business within the defense industry, especially among emerging markets. Singapore is currently one of the largest weapons importers in the world, notes The Diplomat.

Defense contractors are also interested in Singapore’s business-friendly environment, and observers have noted that policymakers govern more like a corporation instead of a business. The island state has been a haven for foreign direct investment and sound economic growth, though Singapore underwent setbacks due to China’s slow growth and the world economic downturn.

Defense expenditures are becoming top priority in Southeast Asia as China claims territories in the South China Sea. Many Southeast Asian countries cannot compete with China on a geopolitical level, which is why governments within the region are relying on a heavier U.S. presence as counterweight.

Singapore has remained neutral on the matter thus far, but the dispute is causing concern within the political establishment because the South China incident could lead to regional destabilization. Singaporeans are not upgrading military hardware in reaction to China alone, but other threats that include international terrorism. Singapore maintains a close relationship with the U.S., which could make it a prime target of terrorist organizations despite its neutral status.

Singapore is the only nation in Southeast Asia to refuse arms purchases from Russia or China and deals heavily with American defense contractors and the U.S. military.