Stockholm: Global military spending growth has slumped to its lowest level since 2001 last year as the world economic crisis struck defence bugets, said Swedish think-tank SIPRI on Monday.

World military spending rose only 1.3 per cent in 2010 to USD 1.63 trillion (1.14 trillion euros), after average annual growth of 5.1 percent between 2001 and 2009, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said as it released its latest report on international military expenditures.

"In many cases, the falls or slower increase represent a delayed reaction to the global financial and economic crisis that broke in 2008," the group said in a statement.

The United States significantly slowed its military investments last year but remained by far the biggest defence spender in the world and still accounted for almost all of global growth.

US defence spending went up by only 2.8 per cent in 2010 to USD 698 billion, after averaging growth of 7.4 per cent between 2001, when SIPRI began publishing its reports, and 2009.

Despite the slowdown, the United States' spending increase of USD 19.6 billion still accounted for nearly all of the USD 20.6 billion global increase last year.

"The USA has increased its military spending by 81 per cent since 2001, and now accounts for 43 per cent of the global total, six times its nearest rival China," Sam Perlo-Freeman, the head of SIPRI's Military Expenditure Project, said in a statement.

"At 4.8 per cent of GDP, US military spending in 2010 represents the largest economic burden outside the Middle East," he said.

The region with the largest increase in military spending last year was South America with 5.8 per cent growth, reaching a total of USD 63.3 billion

"This continuing increase in South America is surprising given the lack of real military threats to most states and the existence of more pressing social needs," said Carina Solmirano, the project's Latin America expert.

In Europe, military spending fell by 2.8 per cent as governments cut costs to address soaring budget deficits, SIPRI said, noting that cuts were particularly heavy in the more vulnerable economies of Central and Eastern Europe and in Greece.

 

(Agencies)