Driving schools look to raise fees

Experts say if driving learning fees are liberalized, schools will be divided into two categories: prestigious and cheap.

Transport Ministry has proposed to abolish the fixed fees for driving schools. Presently, learning to drive costs Br600,000 ($300). The European Radio for Belarus explores what Belarusians will have to pay for driving lessons if the fees are liberalized.

All the driving schools must be excited about the government’s proposal after long years of lobbying. Most of them say that a slight increase in the fees will only add more quality to their services.

Anatol Shashkou, the deputy director of MDAK driving school which is recruiting learners for lessons in February, thinks that the raised fees will allow them to purchase new vehicles.

“In addition, we will have to increase mileage of vehicles so that our customers could take additional road lessons. I think the total cost will not be more than Br800K ($400)”.

Siarhey Tarasau, the director of the Avtovoditel school, names the same figure. It appears that driving schools have already got certain about their price tag.

“We are now observing some frenzy, because everyone fears higher fees and six months of training. But the costs will not be raised sharply. Otherwise, people will stay away. The insignificant rise in costs will allow those who really need it to stay.”

But, at one of the Minsk-based driving schools, a staff who requested not to be named said that their fees would be raised significantly, because Belarus often looks back at Russia where fixed fees were abolished last summer.

“The syllabus has remained the same, but the time period is extended to six months. Some driving schools started charging different fees on the monthly basis. If they do it the way it is in Russia, many will think twice, because the costs could soar by almost 50 percent”.

It seems to be unlikely. On the one hand, the government frees the prices. On the other hand, it will control the costs rigidly. Transport Ministry spokesperson Kseniya Perastaranina explains:

“Every driving school will have to register their fees with the local authorities. Before doing so, they will have to prove and ground their costs. Thus, schools will be divided in terms of cost or prestige. It is true that many schools operate in the red. I know one school which will be back in the black by raising fees just up to Br750K from the present Br600K”.

The European Radio for Belarus also asked how the higher fees could help reduce the waiting lists.

“The demand is there. Queues are a normal thing. If people line up to buy apartments, it is normal to have queues to sign up for driving courses,” Perastaranina said.

It is interesting that in order to sign up for driving lessons, women should submit a statement from a gynecologist that a would-be student is not pregnant. But looking at the today’s queues, it is very likely that pregnant women will have already given birth, while being on the waiting list for six or more months.