Where does the need for state secrecy end, and the public interest in governmental transparency begin? That’s a question posed increasingly by Armenian civil society activists in reaction to news that Yerevan’s defense budget is increasing by 5.6 percent.
On November 1, parliament increased Armenia’s 2012 military budget to 150 billion drams (about $400 million) -- the country’s biggest annual defense outlay ever. But how exactly – and how efficiently -- the ministry will spend those additional funds is proving to be anybody’s guess. Defense spending has long been considered off limits to public scrutiny.
Few Armenians question the need for a strong military; the country has a wobbly cease-fire with Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Energy-rich Azerbaijan’s military budget stands at a massive $1.76 billion (over 1.38 billion manats) for 2012 – an amount that makes many Armenians wonder how their government plans to make the best use of Yerevan’s far more limited financial resources.
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Gayane Abrahamyan is a reporter for ArmeniaNow.com in Yerevan.