Why are the Malaysian Navy and Air Force so poorly equipped compared to even a tiny nation of Singapore?

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    Not so much an answer as an elaboration of the question but it's important to note that Singapore spends a lot more than Malaysia on defense, in fact the share of government expenditures devoted to the military is among the highest in the world. Malaysia seems pretty average. – Relaxed Aug 1 at 15:11
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    In other words: Malaysia's Navy is not poorly equipped compared to Indonesia's (a much larger country) or Thailand's (a neighbour and potential rival) or that of many Latin American countries. The real question is why a tiny country like Singapore spends so much on its military. – Relaxed Aug 1 at 15:26
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    Then, as I explained, there is no question left. If you are not interested in Singapore, why do you bring it up and what do you actually want to know? – Relaxed Aug 1 at 16:50
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    @user366312 And it's not the right metric, writing “even the tiny nation of Singapore” is highly misleading. If you compare Malaysia to similar countries, there is nothing to explain, it has a very unremarkable navy, probably sized to match peers in the region. – Relaxed Aug 1 at 17:05
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    @user366312 If you already "know the answer" then your question isn't asked in good faith. Voting to close. – Brian Z Aug 1 at 17:37

Money and priorities.

GDP per capita in Singapore is $65000. In Malaysia it is $11500. There is simply more money being produced in Singapore to pay for naval and air force equipment.

Moreover, while Malaysia has a extensive coast, it doesn't have the almost unique position of Singapore as a country whose prosperity is almost entirely derived from trade with passing ships. Therefore protecting shipping, and defending their waters is a greater priority for Singapore.

Finally the Singapore navy is much smaller than the Malaysian Navy, with around half the number of personnel, and fewer vessels. Thus Singapore can afford to equip those vessels better. Malaysia needs more boats, to patrol its long coast, but this comes at a cost.

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  • I was just looking at it and I am not sure the money part fully makes sense. Malaysia is way more populous, its total GDP (which is more relevant here) is still higher than Singapore's. It's true that without being much richer, Singapore could not even afford to match Malaysia but the truth is that it's entirely down to its priorities and very high defense spending for a country this size, rich or poor. – Relaxed Aug 1 at 15:09
  • In fact, the population and GDP/capita ratio between the two are roughly the same (1-to-6) so everything else being equal, they should be spending about the same in total (which would obviously be a lot more per capita in Singapore but again that's not relevant to the question at hand). They are not. – Relaxed Aug 1 at 15:15
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    The overall GDP is certainly relevant to total spending, but the GDP per captia is relevant to how well equipped the forces can be. More money per person means that everything else being equal you would expect a smaller, but better equipped military. – James K Aug 1 at 15:52
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    I think it mostly works the other way around: With a few exceptions, military in richer countries have trouble recruiting many soldiers and have to pay them more so they rely on technology and better training to get more effect with fewer men. Either way, spending as a percentage of GDP is not necessarily markedly different (but spent on different things). Eyeballing this or this doesn't suggest any obvious correlation. – Relaxed Aug 1 at 16:58
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    So Malaysia and Singapore could spend the same amount of money overall and yet they don't: Singapore is a clear outlier. Your answer fails to acknowledge that and the fact that overall GDP is higher in Malaysia. There just isn't “more money to pay” for X, Y or Z in Singapore, it's a simple fact. – Relaxed Aug 1 at 16:59

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