Defence budget: A national secret only worthy of independent audits, not public scrutiny – and for good reason

During the Committee of Supply debate for Budget 2023, Workers’ Party MP Gerald Giam called for more detailed information on the budget expenditure for the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). He highlighted the need for more thorough scrutiny of MINDEF’s budget and expenditure to maintain public confidence in the allocation of the S$17.97 billion budget towards achieving the ministry’s mission.

Transparency concerns

Giam requested MINDEF to provide estimated expenditure for each of four items and questioned the lack of transparency in MINDEF’s budget. He cited examples of other territories, including Taiwan, Latvia, and Finland, that have adopted more detailed public budget estimates.

Minister for Defence’s response

Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen stated that detailed information can compromise national security, which is why MINDEF has a necessary tradeoff between accountability and full transparency. However, the ministry is subject to independent audits by the Auditor General’s office to ensure accountability and prudence in spending.

Purchases of F35B fighters and submarines

During his response, Minister Ng announced that MINDEF will acquire eight more F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, bringing the total fleet to 12 by the end of this decade, and retire the aging F-16s. He also mentioned the acquisition of four Type 218SG submarines with air-independent propulsion (AIP) for a total of €1.6 billion (S$2.3 billion).


It is crucial to remind the public that Singapore has always thrived on bipartisan support for foreign and security matters of national interest. These issues should never be politicized or used as a tool for political gain.

The safety and security of Singaporeans should always be the top priority, and we must ensure that we have a strong and credible defence capability.

In this regard, it is essential to maintain public confidence in the allocation of the defence budget and expenditure.

Therefore, it is vital to respect the necessary tradeoff between accountability and full transparency in MINDEF’s budget.

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