Paid military service an ‘urgent’ matter, PM says

Paid military service an ‘urgent’ matter, PM says

ANKARA- Hürriyet Daily News
Paid military service an ‘urgent’ matter, PM says

[The paid militray service bill] aims to meet a requirement stemming from a general social reality, says Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz. AA photo

The Turkish government is considering the introduction of paid military service as a priority matter and hopes to pass a relevant bill before the end of 2011, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.

“This is an important, urgent issue for me. We’ll see whether we can squeeze it [onto Parliament’s agenda] before the budget debate,” Erdoğan told reporters accompanying him on a flight back from Cannes on Nov. 4, according to daily Hürriyet.

Erdoğan said the bill would cover only men above a certain age, adding that the funds to be generated from the arrangement would be used for a purpose that he would disclose later.

Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said social realities, and not financial concerns, prompted the government to consider paid military service and added that a bill on the issue would be finalized after the Kurban Bayram holiday ends this week.

Yılmaz said many men have evaded the compulsory draft due to various reasons and added that there was now little use for their conscription given that they are middle-aged.

“There are people who are over 35, 40 and even 45. Are we going to tear them apart from their families, children and jobs? Some of them could be abroad anyway. So, social realities are imposing such an arrangement,” Yılmaz told Anatolia news agency Nov. 4 during a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“This arrangement is not stemming from any financial needs. It aims to meet a requirement stemming from a general social reality. Turkey’s finances are strong,” he said.

“I believe we will finalize work [on a draft] in the wake of the Bayram holiday after consulting with the General Staff as well,” he said without giving an explicit timeframe.

The amount that beneficiaries of the arrangement will be required to pay has not been determined yet, Yılmaz said, adding that it would be proportional to payments made under similar bills in the past.

The last time Turkey introduced a paid military service law was after two devastating earthquakes that ravaged the country’s northwest in August and November 1999. It exempted conscripts from military service in return for a payment and a basic training of four weeks.

In rare remarks to the media last month, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel spoke cautiously on suggestions to introduce paid military service, noting that any eventual decision should take into account “the people’s sensitivities” and should not lead to discrimination between rich and poor.