Generals satisfied with smaller increase in budget than usual

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 March, 2010, 12:00am

People's Liberation Army insiders say the smallest defence budget increase in nearly two decades is a reasonable and acceptable figure.

'It is not a surprise to us at all because it is still an increase, not a decrease,' a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, General Luo Yuan , said. 'Indeed, our country's economy is still recovering from the aftermath of the global financial meltdown. As the people's army, we should understand our country's difficulties.'

Peng Guangqian , a retired PLA general, said he believed part of the 7.5 per cent of increase would go towards improving the living standard of PLA officers and soldiers.

'Our top task is to protect our national interest, so we should obey any policies given by the top leadership, including the defence budget increase,' Peng said.

Luo agreed: 'Premier Wen Jiabao promised us that he would help us live with dignity.'

The Central Military Commission gave the 2.3 million servicemen and women a pay rise of up to 50 per cent last year. Now recruits each receive about 1,000 yuan (HK$1,135) a month in basic salary. Senior colonels get more than 10,000 yuan and a major general up to 18,000 yuan. Last year's rises were given to reward the army's hard work during the Beijing Olympics and the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.

Civil servants had enjoyed several pay rises from the 1990s to the early 2000s to let them share in the fruits of economic reform. But the PLA was left out.

Then in 2007, Beijing began to raise wages for PLA soldiers to encourage young people to join and because it was time for serving soldiers' salaries to catch up. Some rises were significant, with colonels' monthly salary doubled.

Peng said the rises were due after the sacrifices military personnel had made for the country. 'We suffered one decade of no military spending increases - and even decreases - in the early stage of the opening-up policy in the 1980s,' he said.

Another retired senior colonel said giving pay rises and other related benefits to help improve the soldiers' quality of life also made political sense.

'The Communist Party needs the PLA to support its regime nowadays,' he said. 'Therefore, it would not treat the army badly.'