In Lebanon, the Lebanese Armed Forces are hit hard by the crisis

Lebanese army soldiers during the parade marking the 78th anniversary of independence in Beirut on November 22, 2021.

Georges (the first name has been changed) only goes three mornings a week to the Beirut naval base. This Lebanese naval non-commissioned officer spends most of his time doing small interior jobs for the clientele he has built up in order to make ends meet. With the devaluation of the Lebanese pound against the dollar, his salary of 2.5 million Lebanese pounds is worth only $ 100 (89 euros), against $ 1,700 before the financial crisis, in 2019.

At 50, with two dependent children aged 11 and 17, Georges was taken by the throat. He doesn’t have much left after paying for electricity, water and gas. “We live from day to day. I owe 35 million Lebanese pounds [1 500 dollars au taux de change sur le marché noir] at school, because the army no longer covers school fees up to 80%, as before. I don’t know how to pay for the elder’s enrollment in college next year. Who can pay $ 5,000 today? “, he asks himself.

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“There is a lot of absenteeism in the regiment, some soldiers can no longer come at all because of the rise in gas prices. Since July, our schedules have been changed ”, continues Georges. Taxi driver, delivery man, farmer: soldiers have taken odd jobs to survive, and the military command turns a blind eye to solutions. “We are realistic: a soldier only earns 60 dollars to 70 dollars a month, if he can find another job, we let it happen. We want to preserve them. They are brought in ten to twelve days a month instead of twenty-two days, so that they can save on transport and work on the side. We hope that it will not last ”, confides a military source.

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have been hit hard by the financial crisis. With the fall of the pound, the defense budget fell from $ 1.2 billion in 2019 to $ 200 million, said Aram Nerguizian of the Carnegie think tank. This is no longer enough to offer a living wage to the 80,000 members of the LAF or to maintain the social benefits they enjoyed.

Avoid waves of desertion

Missions have not yet been affected by budget and human resource cuts, but units are struggling with a lack of materials – down to paper and light bulbs – and spare parts for equipment maintenance. “This is a real problem, because there is inevitably a gradual decline in motivation and capacity to take on the missions”, believes a Western military source.

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