The defence budget for the next year accounts for 6.4 billion Denars, an increase of 15%. A political decision has been made on the pace of Macedonia’s approach to the goal declared by the NATO member states to allocate 2% of the gross domestic product for the defence.
Shekerinska stated at the press conference that with this draft budget for 2018, the state pays real attention to the Ministry, and primarily to the Army of the Republic of Macedonia after whole 8 years. She said that everyone in the state is well aware and agreed that the Army must get the place it really deserves, in accordance with its constitutional function and the expectations from this organization.
“Both the Government of the Republic of Macedonia and myself as Minister, we pledged to provide funds for increasing the salaries of all those serving in the Army of the Republic of Macedonia by 10%. With the proposal we sent to the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia, we have proved that we stand behind our word and that the decision to increase the salaries of the entire army is the result of our political assessment that it is truly unacceptable for the Republic of Macedonia to have the lowest army salaries in the region. We considered this not as a matter of luxury, or privilege, but as a matter of honour and duty of the Government to show the Army that it is here when the Army needs help”, the Minister said, adding that the additional 254.6 million Denars will be sufficient to make the full payment.
“We must increase the motivation in the Army, we must prevent the serious outflow of professional soldiers, but also of NCOs and officers,” Shekerinska said, adding that this move to increase the salaries shows that the work of all members of the Army is well appreciated, and will affect the functionality of the army and the readiness for NATO membership.
The Minister announced that the envisaged funds for salaries also include a certain amount that will rejuvenate and augment the ARM strength and stated that in 2018, 375 new professional soldiers and about 50 officers are planned to be recruited, which will improve the manning level in the Army.
Regarding the other budget items for 2018, the Minister referred to the key budget increases, including money to support the process of Macedonia’s accession to NATO and the money for equipment repairs and servicing, as well as for improvement of the working conditions in the military facilities.
There is also an increase in the purchase of boots, uniforms, spare parts and equipment, as well as an improvement of the combat readiness of the Army through the purchase of new equipment.
The Minister said that in 2018 the unproductive costs – the expenses for representation, expenses for official trips and education abroad – will be reduced, and a plan will be developed for reducing the communal expenses by saving o water, electricity and fuel.
“The 2018 budget announces a radical shift in the defence attitude and demonstrates that the Government will continuously invest in the standard, conditions and the equipment of the Army, which will continue until the NATO expectation for allocating 2% of the gross domestic product has been fulfilled. Increasing the budget is yet another way to demonstrate that we are very serious in fulfilling our strategic goal – NATO membership. This goal is related to our intention to accelerate economic growth, provide more and better jobs by giving a political argument to all domestic and foreign investors that Macedonia is a safe country in which it is worth investing”, Minister Shekerinska concluded at the press conference.
The Minister also answered questions related to the status of professional soldiers after fulfilling the age limit, the expectations from the meetings of mediator Nimitz with the negotiators for the name dispute, the resignations of members of the State Election Committee, the appointment of a Minister of Health in the vacant position and the speculations about the government reconstruction, and whether there is pressure from NATO for procurement of armoured personnel carriers.