x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Regional unrest to shift arms spending focus

Analysts have mixed views on the long-term impacts of the regional unrest on Middle East defence and security spending.

PARIS // The social unrest that swept parts of the region this year could force governments to refocus defence spending and invest heavily in security measures, analysts say.

"Many Middle East and North Africa regimes are now focused in deterring domestic as opposed to external threats," said Richard Galustian, a British defence and security expert based in the region. "During a time like this, most political leaders in the region will look to balance hard military purchases with increasing sophistication in security strategy and procurement, such as an emphasis to replicate the London closed-circuit TV model," he said.

Mr Galustian said, however, that stable regional governments such as the UAE, Oman and those in parts of North Africa would not need to resort to such measures.

The Middle East region is home to some of the world's largest defence buyers with several countries possessing huge oil wealth.

Mr Galustian said foreign contractors were also positioning themselves to take advantage of new training and educational opportunities spurred by the political events of this year.

"The other very important impact on Arab Spring countries is their need to partner with companies that specialise in training and education, not least to help create jobs for locals, … particularly in the fields of security and defence."

However, opinion is mixed about the long-term impacts of the unrest in the past six months. That has stoked fears among western defence companies that decisions on big-ticket defence items may be deferred as governments focus on regional strife. But Kevin Massengill, a vice president and regional executive for the Middle East and North Africa for Raytheon, said these fears had so far been unfounded.

"They are reordering defence priorities somewhat," he said. "But we haven't seen [deferrals] yet. Mark Kronenberg, the vice president of international business development at Boeing Defence, Space and Security, said his company was focused on supplying military aircraft due to long-standing security concerns, rather than recent events.

"The Arab Spring is not what is driving these [campaigns]," he said.