It is often argued, if we can’t find cuts in the defense budget, we’re not looking carefully enough. The link between government expenditure on national defense and economic growth has been a subject of controversy ever since growth objective came to occupy a prominent place in public policy priorities. The amount that a state spends on its defense and military has a huge opportunity cost of being potentially utilized for improvement in infrastructure, education or health facilities of the state. All nations are at different stages of their respective growth paths and most need to invest extensively in human capital, capital in production, education, sanitation facilities, health facilities, and reliable social security schemes so that the citizens do not face life cycle vulnerabilities.
But at the same time, this spending becomes important if there is fear of security or emergence of terrorist groups within the state. Drawing a fine line between military spending for internal security and its use for triggering military conflicts in future is important. The situation could substantially transform if nations were more transparent about their military spending. Countries struggling with civil strife or hostile relations with other countries believe that the information is too sensitive to be revealed.
The current situation of information transparency can be compared to the Prisoners Dilemma. Each nation unaware of the extent to which the others will reveal information doesn’t reveal sufficient information that can effectively be used for analysis and thus the outcome is worse than what would be if each reveals good quality information. It is critical to understand here that each nation should have an approach free of skepticism and look at revelation of information from a bigger perspective. Revelation of information would signal a move away from aggressive use of resources. A mature move forward is needed on behalf of all nations so that each shows its commitment towards achieving its development goals and internal security.
Moreover the move should be towards qualitative revelation of information that can be used for analysis. With improved technology, access to the internet, better communication, recording, accounting and auditing techniques, sure, the quality of information has improved over the years; but still, greater effort is required on behalf of the governments of nations.
Only after transparency is achieved, nations can come together to discuss strategies to reduce military spending which could pave way for economic growth.