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February 20, 2020

Which country spends most per person on defence? It might not be the one you think

National

February 20, 2020

LONDON: For the defence industry, there are few better customers than Middle East states. Many of them have deep pockets and even those that don’t are still willing to spend heavily. For their governments, buying military equipment is both a way to gain advantage over regional opponents and, just as importantly, lock in the support of global powers who like to see their own defence firms win big contracts. Military spending by governments in the Middle East and North Africa fell slightly last year, however. Among the 14 countries for which there are reliable data, expenditure was down 4.4% to $175 billion, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a London-based think-tank which included the data in its latest Military Balance report, released on 14 February. That bucked the global trend of defense spending rising 4%, reported foreign media. Even so, by some measures Middle East governments continue to lead the world. Across the region, countries spend more than 5% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on troops and armaments, far more than the next highest spending region, North America (where it is just over 3%). One, often-overlooked country stands out in particular. Oman, which recently saw power change hands for the first time in 50 years with the appointment of Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al Said as ruler, spends more per capita on its military than any other country, at just over $2,500 per person. It also spends more as a percentage of GDP than any other country, at almost 12%.