“From 130 to 600 million euros”: Still no clear calculation of how much mandatory military service would cost the state, and the minister claims that money is not a problem

For years now, there have been rumors in Serbia that military service could be mandatory again, but there is still no clear calculation of how much such an undertaking would be a blow to the state budget. However, state officials claim that they are not giving up on this idea and that money will not be a problem.

All previous stories related to mandatory military service remained just that, at the level of stories and some ideas for the future, but without concrete changes in that direction.

Nevertheless, the beginning of this year brought us certain developments, so the General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces launched an initiative and proposed to the President of Serbia and the Supreme Commander of the Serbian Armed Forces, Aleksandar Vučić, to reintroduce the obligation to serve in the military.

The reason given was to increase the defense capabilities of the Serbian Armed Forces, through the rejuvenation and improvement of the filling and training of the active and reserve forces.

According to their initiative, military service would last up to four months, the Ministry of Defense announced.

As they state, they came to this proposal after a detailed consideration of the general security situation and contemporary challenges faced by Serbia as a militarily neutral country, which imposed the need to adjust the model of filling the Army, which would enable the strengthening of the overall recruiting potential and the training of a larger number citizens for the defense of our country.

Minister of Defense Miloš Vučević recently, in a guest appearance on RTS, emphasized that the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff will not give up on the initiative to restart military service.

And this was confirmed in a way by the Minister of Finance, Siniša Mali , who said that money is the least problem when considering the idea of ​​mandatory military service.

He believes that such a decision would have positive economic effects on local governments.

“Imagine just one local self-government, if you would equip those barracks, whether Negotin, Sombor, any other city. It boosts the local economy, it boosts the local city. If we invest in the reconstruction of certain barracks, we have again invested in our country. The construction industry receives some money, people are employed, VAT or any other tax is returned to the budget,” Mali previously told TV Pink.

Economist and editor of the publication STRATEO Saša Đogović has the opposite opinion of the minister.

Namely, he believes that the realization of that idea and investment in equipment and military facilities would cause new expenses and needs in the budget.

Đogović for Danas emphasizes that, first of all, it must be calculated how much it would all cost.

“How many barracks need to be modernized, reconstructed, and then the material costs for the equipment, then the people who will train the soldiers, which also need to be paid for.” This entails a detailed analysis and an economic report,” says our interlocutor.

This, he adds, is a serious topic that has a strategic character and cannot be discussed ad hoc.

“If we don’t have any study or document that will talk about the need for something like that from a defense or military aspect and from an economic aspect, then it’s just something that someone said it should be and that story got spun and got some kind of spin” , says Đogović.

He indicates that we need to have clear documentation that argues in favor of such a proposal from all aspects.

Someone who is in power, he explains, has a higher level of responsibility when talking about such a topic.

“They have to offer reasons why they are going for it and how much it will cost the budget, especially in circumstances when we are already expanding the fiscal deficit through the announced program “Leap into the future”, Đogović explains.

The costs for such a project would, in his opinion, be unproductive.

“Those facilities are not used for commercial purposes, so that they would later produce some additional value, but it is a pure expenditure for the future. That is why different elements should be weighed before making a decision,” he repeats.

If there is a defense, or military need, as Đogović says, then this indicates that something is wrong with the existing, professional involvement in the army.

“This means that there are probably not enough personnel or we have some threats that we don’t know about, so it is necessary to respond to them through regular military service,” he believes.

The President of the Military Union of Serbia, Novica Antić, reminds Danas of the Ministry of Defense’s estimates so far about the potential cost of this undertaking.

“According to the official estimates of the Ministry of Defense, published in public from 2016 until today, the return of mandatory military service, depending on the number of recruits and referral deadlines, would cost the citizens of Serbia, that is, the budget, from 130 to 600 million euros,” he states.

As he adds, the obligation to serve in the military is expensive for the state.

“There, you have a large number of recruits who are permanently housed and fed, and in our case, as announced, the state would dress them in new uniforms every four months,” says Antić.

In addition, he also points to the problem that those who invoke conscientious objection would serve double the duration of military service.

“This means that a person who is not actually a soldier, because he does not carry a weapon, is kept on food and accommodation for eight months, which is also very expensive, and the end product is not a soldier trained to handle weapons and defend the country,” says Antić.

He emphasizes that it would be better to invest this money in a professional army.

“We in the Military Union of Serbia believe that it would be much more rational, economical and effective for the Serbian defense system to invest this money in the standard of professional members of the army, which would make military service significantly more popular and attractive for those who have no conscientious objection and would were soldiers in every sense of the word,” concludes Antić.

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