Sri Lanka to slash military by a third to cut costs | Military News
The bankrupt country says it will reduce the number of military personnel to 135,000 by next year and to 100,000 by 2030 as it grapples with an economic crisis.
Sri Lanka will drastically downsize its military, the Defense Ministry has announced, as the country struggles to cut costs in the face of its worst economic crisis in decades.
The bankrupt country will cut the number of military personnel by a third to 135,000 by next year and 100,000 by 2030, the country’s defense minister said on Friday as the government works to repair its finances.
“Military spending is essentially spending by the state, which indirectly stimulates and paves the way for economic growth while ensuring national and human security,” Premitha Bandara Thennakoon said in a statement.
The goal of the move is to create a “technically and tactically sound and well-balanced” defense force by 2030, Thennakoon said.
The island nation of 22 million people is suffering from food and fuel shortages and spiraling inflation. The government cut spending after the country fell into a deep economic crisis last year when its foreign exchange reserves were depleted.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe has raised taxes and imposed harsh spending cuts to soften approval of an expected International Monetary Fund bailout after a government debt default.
The size of Sri Lanka’s armed forces peaked between 2017 and 2019 at 317,000 personnel, according to World Bank data.
That was more than a decade after the end of the country’s civil war, a 25-year conflict with the separatist Tamil Tiger movement, which ended in 2009.
The defense sector’s share of Sri Lanka’s total spending peaked in 2021 at 2.3 percent of gross domestic product, but fell to 2 percent last year, according to Colombo-based think tank Verite Research.
Defense accounted for nearly 10 percent of public spending last year, and according to analysts, pay for security force personnel accounts for half of the government’s wage bill.
Sri Lanka warned this week that it barely had enough revenue to pay public workers and pensions.
The economy shrank by about 8.7 percent last year as the public endured long power outages, long lines for gas, empty supermarket shelves and runaway inflation.
The crisis came to a head in July when protesters angered by the crisis stormed the official residence of then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who briefly fled the country and tendered his resignation from abroad.