London: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that the country will increase its defense budget by 16.5 billion pounds ($21.8 billion) in the next four years, the biggest military investment in 30 years and since the Cold War.
Addressing the media on Wednesday evening, Johnson said that he was making the announcement “in the teeth” of the coronavirus pandemic because “the defence of the realm must come first”, the BBC reported.
“The international situation is more perilous and more intensely competitive than at any time since the Cold War,” he added.
The Prime Minister said that in order for the country to “be true to our history and stand alongside our allies” it must make improvements “across the board”.
“This is our chance to end the era of retreat, transform our armed forces, bolster our global influence, unite and level up our country, pioneer new technology and defend our people and way of life,” he said.
The Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) annual budget is around 40 billion. The 16.5 billion pounds increase over four years is about a 10 per cent hike.
The extra spending is on top of the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto commitment.
Based on forecasts of inflation, the government said it expects the MoD to get an overall increase of about 24.1 billion pounds over four years, compared with last year’s budget.
The Prime Minister will set out further details in a virtual speech to the House of Commons on Thursday, reports the BBC.
He will give the speech from 10 Downing Street, where he continues to self-isolate after coming into contact with a Conservative Party MP who later tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the program, which will fund space and cyber defence projects such as an artificial intelligence agency, is expected to create 40,000 new jobs.