Defence budget still too small for some
Ray Cheung and Cary Huang in Beijing
PLA representatives who attended the NPC opening meeting yesterday said the 247.7 billion yuan defence budget was still not enough to support the military's quest to become a modern hi-tech fighting force and raise the living standards of the rank and file.
General Li Bixin, of the Hainan Military District, said while the figure represented a 12.6 per cent increase on last year's budget, the military continued to be short of funds to support better living standards, upgrade armaments and improve training.
'Our living standard is only slightly better than people living in the poor areas and is much worse than those living in the developed coastal areas,' General Li said.
According to him, the salaries for senior officers are extremely low - generals receive around 5,000 yuan a month.
With the new budget, their wage is expected to increase by only 100 yuan.
General Li Guangqi , of the Second Artillery Corps, also said the PLA needed more money.
The generals also responded to the perception that rising defence spending was an indication that the mainland was a growing military threat. They said the rise was in accordance with the nation's growing economy and noted that the official figure represents just 2 per cent of gross domestic product, while the world average for defence spending hovered around 3 per cent. Foreign analysts believe Beijing's real defence spending ranges from two to four times the reported amount.
Air Force General Wang Chaoqun contended that even with continued double-digit growth, military development was not Beijing's priority.
He stressed that industrial, agriculture, science and technology modernisation continued to be most important.