Lebanon army chief angry at budget measures

General Joseph Aoun- army chief
General Joseph Aoun- army chief

Beirut-  Lebanon’s army chief on Saturday criticised measures in the country’s austerity budget, including a recruitment freeze, warning they would have a negative impact on the military.

General Joseph Aoun’s intervention, rare for a Lebanese army chief, comes after the government approved a budget aimed at unlocking billions of dollars in aid that an official source said includes a three-year army recruitment freeze.

“The ban on recruiting soldiers or cadets, and the ban on dismissal, will have negative consequences on the military institution,” Aoun said in a statement published by the army.

Lebanon is one of the world’s most indebted countries and the government plan is expected to trim the country’s deficit this year to 7.59 percent.

Donors at the so-called CEDRE conference last year pledged $11 billion in aid and soft loans to Lebanon, which vowed to reduce its public spending.

Aoun said the army has already been adopting a stringent approach to spending and last year returned part of its budget to the state coffers.

“The army is the backbone of Lebanon, we do not exaggerate in saying that it guarantees (the country’s) security and stability. Its mission is not limited to times of war and conflicts,” he said.

“Despite the current security stability, significant challenges remain, such as those at our eastern, southern or maritime borders,” Aoun added.

Lebanon has been hit by repeated political deadlocks in recent years and the economic woes have been compounded by the devastating war in neighbouring Syria.

It is also technically still at war with Israel, with United Nations peacekeepers stationed on the frontier.

There have been numerous protests in recent weeks against the austerity measures by Lebanese government workers, including by retired soldiers concerned about possible pension reductions.

Civil servant salaries are to be cut under the new budget, which would also introduce a 2-percent tax on imports and increase taxes on interest income from bank deposits from seven to 10 percent.

The plan still needs to be ratified by parliament, giving lawmakers an opportunity to table amendments.

  • Kris Welter

    Lebanon’s military budget could be cut by 30% if it didn’t have to counter the threat on it’s Southern border, or endure the difficulties associated with the refugee crisis attached to the Syrian war and the ongoing Palestinian refugee situation. Without Israel’s evil influence on both accounts, a majority of the money required to counter those difficulties could be earmarked for other things, or done away with in the budget to help balance it and get ahead of the downward spiral of loans and debt. The solution is not to cut spending, it’s to remove the problem that causes the need for increased spending in the first place….and that means neutralizing it’s southern neighbors expansionistic and financial militancy in the Region. Neutralize Israel…..the problem goes away. A simple idea…a very effective one, and one that will benefit EVERYONE in the Region…except the Zionists, that is. And maybe that’s the BEST part of the entire idea.

    • MaryTPresumptuous

      You are not giving yourself enough credit: Lebanon’s military budget could be cut by 100% if it took up Nasrallah’s suggestion. Then where would you and the country be?

    • Y K

      Why would an AHMADINEJAD call HIMSELF “Kris Welter”? The Answer is simple: it’s a deep-seated – and totally JUSTIFIED! – inferiority Complex speaking. The White MAN is automatically presumed to be more trustworthy than a primitive, hair and wart-covered, subliterate BARBARIAN. Some Joo with spectacles and a fancy Degree would probably describe this as REVERSE RACISM.

      Capisce, Krissy boy? 🙂