It was reported yesterday that the US has approved the sale of up to 12 F-35 fighter jets to Singapore for around US$2.75 billion or S$3.7 billion (‘US approves $2.75 bn fighter jet sale to Singapore‘, 10 Jan).
AFP reported that despite its small size, Singapore spends a large chunk of its national budget on defence.
“Singapore is a strategic friend and major security cooperation partner and an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region,” said the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
The F-35 is an advanced supersonic stealth plane able to evade radar detection. Its advanced electronic warfare capabilities also enable pilots to locate and track enemy forces, jam radars and disrupt attacks. Other advanced weaponry Singapore has includes F-15 fighter jets, Apache helicopters and submarines in its arsenal.
No doubt, the acquisition of advanced stealth planes able to evade radar and attack any targets covertly without being discovered would naturally heighten the concerns of Singapore’s neighboring countries. It’s not known how they would respond to this latest acquisition of advanced stealth planes by Singapore.
12 F-35s cost more than entire MSF budget
It is noted that the S$3.7 billion slated for the purchase of the 12 F-35s is already more than the entire 2019 budget for the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).
According to the 2019 budget, the total expenditure for MSF is projected to be S$3 billion. Of this, S$2.88 billion is for operating expenditure and S$115.66 million for development expenditure.
The Family Development Programme takes up the largest share of MSF’s S$2.88 billion operating expenditure at S$2.08 billion. This is followed by its Social Policy and Services Group Programme which takes up S$479.14 million.
The Family Development Programme covers 2 important functions – those of the Family Development Group and Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).
The ECDA regulates and develops the early childhood sector in Singapore, overseeing key aspects of children’s development below the age of 7, across both kindergartens and child care centres. It helps to expand the provision of affordable and quality early childhood services, and to transform and uplift the early childhood profession. These include the provision of more preschool places through its various schemes as well as subsidies to improve affordability of childcare for Singaporean families.
The Social Policy and Services Group Programme on the other hand, gives out grants for social uplifting programmes like strengthening services for the vulnerable, persons with disabilities, children, youth and families. It also supports the administration and provision of social assistance to low-income Singaporeans.
The late Martin Luther King Jr once warned about spending on ever increasing military defence programme at the expense of social spending. At the height of the Vietnam War in 1967, he gave the following famous quote in a speech in New York (‘Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence‘):
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”