The Ministry of Defense is planning to reimburse the cost of getting a driver's license to those conscripts of the January and July call-up who already have a license upon entering conscript service, public broadcaster ERR reports.
Spokesman for the defense forces Capt. Taavi Karotamm told ERR that at least half of new conscripts should hold a category B driver's license. Firstly, it is an important prerequisite for learning to drive heavier C, D and E category vehicles during conscript service.
"In addition, the defense forces also use a lot of lighter off-road vehicles, which are known to require a category B driver's license," Karotamm added.
Currently, some conscripts also receive a B-category driver's license during their conscript service, but Anu Rannaveski, head of the defense service department of the defense ministry, noted that the time spent learning the basics of driving could be spent on more specific training.
"But if we look at such general trends in society, the proportion of young men with a driver's license is declining," Rannaveski said.
About 58 percent of those who entered conscript service in 2016 had a driver's license. Four years later, only 52 percent had a driver's license.
"Our idea is that those who obtain their category B driver's license before conscript service, for those men and women, we will reimburse the cost they have incurred in the order of 1,000 euros," Rannaveski said. "This will encourage young people to get a driver's license before starting conscript service."
The recently completed drafting intention of the bill suggests that €1.5 million could be spent yearly on driver's license reimbursement.
"This does not concern the October call-up, where we train the members of rank," Rannaveski said, adding that driver's are trained from among those who start their conscript service in January or July.
"For example, in 2023, when the number of conscripts starts to increase, we will have about 1,500 conscripts who could enter service with a driver's license," Rannaveski said.
The money would be paid after conscript service is completed, meaning that those who drop out will not receive compensation. Rannaveski emphasized that this is only an intention to develop a bill, and many details may still change. According to the current plans, the amendment to the law should enter into force by 2023.
It is also planned to reimburse the interest on housing loans. The ministry is hoping for this idea to enter into force by the same time. Rannaveski noted that about 1 percent of conscripts have taken out a housing loan before starting service.
"While credit institutions do offer the possibility that the principal does not have to be paid during conscript service, they still have an interest obligation and it is relatively difficult to pay it from the conscript's support," Rannaveski said.
At the beginning of the service, the soldier would receive €115 per month, and this support may not increase during the first eight months. The highest allowance is paid to those who have earned the rank of sergeant, they will receive €230 per month.
In order to ensure that conscripts do not run into difficulties with their obligations, the ministry is planning for the state to bear the interest payments on their home loans. It would cost about €35,000 a year.
"We have calculated that the sum to be paid per conscript could be somewhere around €1,100 per year," Rannaveski said.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste