As the Syrian regime’s government declared the intention to consider approving an internal compulsory military service exemption fee that may be worth the same amount as the external fee ($8,000), many expressed fears that only the poor will be forced to serve in the military because they cannot afford paying this large sum.
Finance Minister insinuates
The Minister of Finance in the government of the Syrian regime, Kinan Yaghi, said during a People's Assembly session to discuss the state general budget on Tuesday, that the ministry will support the imposition of an internal compulsory military service exemption fee in case it was consulted on the matter, explaining that "the decision is currently under consideration" and some developments may be revealed soon, according to Al-Madina FM and Snack Syrian.
For his part, a member of the People's Assembly, Mujib Al-Rahman Al-Dandan, told Al-Madina FM, on Tuesday, that the decision is on the government’s discussion table for serious study.
Regarding the importance of imposing the internal compulsory military service exemption fee, Al-Dandan said that the idea had been proposed since 2015, but it was rejected by the majority at the time. However, with the current exceptional circumstances, the government must search for additional resources to support the state treasury away from the poor’s pockets, including this fee.
According to Al-Dandan, the internal compulsory military service exemption fee will save those willing to pay it the trouble of traveling for four years, regulate the status of young people under the law, and reduce corruption cases; i.e. illegally excluding people from compulsory military service lists in exchange for bribes that may reach 20 million Syrian pounds.
He pointed out that the study conducted on this file in 2015 showed the possibility of supporting the public treasury annually with up to $ 1.2 billion, if 10 to 15 percent of the concerned persons paid the fee.
Al-Dandan added, after five years, the amount could reach $ 3 billion annually, as the study also showed that the revenues of the internal compulsory military service exemption fee would be a beneficial boost for the treasury and help raise the wages of state employees.
Young people are waiting for the opportunity
Since the beginning of 2011, the military service has become a tiring concern for the Syrian youth that threatens to destroy their dreams, as thousands of them had to leave the country and escape the compulsory military service which destroyed the lives of many who were sent to the fighting fronts. Others have lost up to nine years of their lives while waiting for a decision to exempt them from army duty.
Some young Syrians supported the imposition of the internal compulsory military service exemption fee. Imad Al-Ashram (a pseudonym) said to Rozana: “I support the imposition of internal compulsory military service exemption fee provided that the amount is reasonable and inferior to the external fee, but if it is exaggerated, only a few people will benefit from this decision.”
Ahmed Al-Majed (a pseudonym) told Rozana that if the internal compulsory military service fee was approved "it would only be a service for the rich, so that military service would be imposed on the poor and unfortunate, which means that the military duty will no longer be compulsory, but rather optional for those who have money as the children of officials and businessmen.
The talk about the internal compulsory military service fee comes amid a suffocating economic crisis in Syria, after the fall of the Syrian pound to its lowest levels, and in light of the successive shortages the country is experiencing in fuel, bread, and other essential commodities.
Zuhair Hamed explained to Rozana that "the internal compulsory military service fee presents an additional way to raise money, in light of the recent increase in the prices of goods, especially fuel, which contributed to doubling the prices of foodstuffs in particular, and other industrial materials."
According to others, the internal compulsory military service fee will also deepen the rift between the poor and the rich, and reinforce the differences between social classes.
Ali al-Habib, a social media activist said: "The poor have to die and leave his family, and the rich stays home."
At the beginning of this month, the government of the Syrian regime estimated the 2020 state budget deficit at 1455 billion Syrian pounds, while the deficit for the 2021 budget amounts to 3484 billion Syrian pounds, according to Al-Watan.
The regime's government attributed the causes of the deficit in next year's budget to the increase in public spending levels, the swings of the exchange rate, the deficit of the fuel company, the increase in salaries and wages, the supply deficit of the General Establishment for Cereal Processing and Trade (GECPT), etc.
Is it constitutional?
According to Article (46) of the Syrian constitution, military service is a "sacred duty" for Syrians. The first clause of this article states: “Compulsory military service is a sacred duty and regulated by law,” while the second clause says “Defending the safety of the homeland and safeguarding state secrets is a duty of every citizen.”
External compulsory military service fee
The external compulsory military service fee is accepted from the Syrian Arab taxpayers, and those of equal status among the Palestinian-Syrian Arabs, in case the period of residence outside the country reaches a period of no less than four years, and the value of the fee is $8000, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates.
The external compulsory military service fee is accepted from the taxpayers born outside the country, whose residence abroad continued until they reached the age of recruitment in army, without interruption, increased by three months per year, and its value is $2,500.
The concerned taxpayers lose their right to pay the fee, if they do no pay within the specified period (four years), and their actual residence outside the country exceeds more than five years. Thus, a taxpayer is fined 50,000 Syrian pounds for each year of delay and loses his right to pay the fee if he exceeds the age of 25.
According to Al-Watan newspaper, in May 2013 Bashar al-Assad issued a decision to raise the value of the external compulsory military service fee for those eligible for army duty from $5,000 to $15,000, which coincided with the increase of exchange rate of the US dollar against the Syrian pound and the severe shortage of foreign exchange reserves at the Central Bank of Syria, which decreased from $ 18 billion before the crisis to only $4 billion, according to analysts and economists.
On 6 August, 2014, the head of the regime issued Decree No. (33), which stipulated the reduction of the value of external compulsory military service fee imposed on taxpayer's residing outside the country to $8,000 instead of $15,000, while decreasing the period of residence outside the country to four 4 years instead of five, according to the Presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic.
In 2011, al-Assad issued a decree that reduced the value of the external compulsory military service fee for those who resided permanently outside the country for no less than four years to $5,000, after it was $ 6,500 for taxpayers living abroad for at least five years.
Date of payment for external compulsory military service fee
The law of conscription in Syria was issued on 19 December, 1919 by the Board of Directors in the Syrian Arab government in Damascus. Under this law, mandatory military service is required of everyone who is aged no less than 20 and more than 40, for a period of six months, at the end of which the conscript is given a release paper.
The taxpayer can pay a fee of 30 Syrian pounds at once go if he wishes not to come forward to compulsory military service, according to the website of the Ministry of Defence.
After the formation of the Ministry of Defence on 13 May, 1920, Yousef al-Azma took office and assumed the task of restructuring the army, which was followed by the issuance of an annex to the conscription law that abolished many exceptions and imposed mandatory military service on all Syrian men nearly.
The new law also set a fee of 50 Syrian pounds on two instalments, and the employees can chose to serve in the military or pay the amount and maintain their jobs.