ARMY TO DEMAND EXTRA BGN50MN FOR ITS BUDGET
The Ministry of Defence is going to insist on the provision of additional BGN45MN-BGN50MN when the next year budget is formed. Vesselin Bliznakov, Minister of Defence, made the statement at the opening of Bulgaria's first information centre for recruitment of military staff in Karlovo. The money is needed for the successful implementation of a large-scale advertising campaign for recruitment of professional soldiers as well as for payment of compensations to military officers currently engaged with the training of young men who have not done their military service yet. According to early calculations, between BGN12MN and BGN14MN will be needed for compensations alone. If this money is not planned in the 2007 financial macroframe, there is a real danger that the army fails to meet the January 1, 2008 deadline by which levy military service should be cancelled, the General Staff informed. The Minister of Defence already informed the MPs from the Defence Commission about the situation. Besides, the ministry is going to insist on updating the salaries of military officers during 2007 draft budget discussion. Members of Ataka threatened they would oppose to the extreme expenses made for the army. Members of the Coalition for Bulgaria joined them saying that more money for the armed forces would mean less resources for the social sphere. They commented that the three-partite coalition broke the left wing's election social promises which resulted in weaker electoral support for the Bulgarian Socialist Party.
Next year budget discussions have not begun yet, but political struggles on the issue are in course. The General Staff takes into account the lack of interest on the part of young men and women in the military profession. One reason is the low reward in the army, the Staff department comments. At present, a professional soldier is paid just BGN350. The money is extremely insufficient to cover even the risk typical for the specific work in the military forces. In order to overcome the negative trend, the General Staff is starting to implement a social strategy for the insurance of the professional soldier. It includes the accelerated building of homes, greater opportunities for sports and recreation, as well as excellent medical service. The program also stipulates that each professional soldier acquires a civil profession, too, while fulfilling his professional duties. This will make the profession more attractive to young people, because even before signing an agreement with the military ministry they will be able to plan their lives for years ahead without taking social risks. Currently, economic experts are working on possibilities to make the military ministry take up the payment of application or military graduation fees.
Land armies feel the biggest need of professional officers now. Military specialities there are fulfilled by young men who have not done their military service yet.
The army needs powerful advertising campaign to recruit military staff, too. The hopes in that direction are confided to the 47 information centres that will be built in the country.
The well-planned calculations of the General Staff for recruitment of military professionals may fail if the political management of the army does not succeed in negotiating the necessary resources in the 2007 budget. At the same time we should not forget that the projects in course for modernisation of the army which are part of plan 2015 wait for financing, too. Since they are long-term ones, they will need huge resources.