Qatar gives cash-strapped Lebanese army $60 mn: ministry
Energy-rich Qatar has given Lebanon’s cash-strapped armed forces $60 million, the foreign ministry in Doha announced Thursday.
“The announcement comes within the framework of the State of Qatar’s firm commitment to support the Republic of Lebanon,” the ministry said in a statement.
Lebanon is grappling with an unprecedented financial crisis, branded by the World Bank as one of the planet’s worst since the 1850s.
The small Mediterranean country defaulted on its debt in 2020, the local currency has lost around 90 percent of its value on the black market, and the UN now considers four in five Lebanese to be poor.
The economic crisis has eaten away at the value of soldiers’ salaries and slashed the military’s budget for maintenance and equipment.
At one point in 2020, Lebanon’s army said it had scrapped meat from the meals offered to on-duty soldiers due to rising food prices.
And in June last year, it said it would offer tourists helicopter rides in a bid to boost its coffers.
On Thursday, a Lebanese military source told AFP that financial assistance from Qatar would help pay the salaries of Lebanese soldiers.
The Qatari announcement came as the Gulf state’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani was visiting Lebanon.
Sheikh Mohammed, in Beirut to attend an Arab foreign ministers’ meeting, had talks during the visit with Lebanon’s army chief General Joseph Aoun.
During the meeting, Aoun “thanked” Qatar for the funds, the Qatari news agency reported, while Sheikh Mohammed said the aid reflects Doha’s support for the “brotherly Lebanese people and its firm belief in the importance and necessity of joint Arab action”.
His advisor Majed al-Ansari told AFP the aid was aimed at conveying two things.
“The first is our commitment to supporting the people and state institutions in Lebanon. Second… to show the Lebanese people that the Arab world has not forgotten them.”
In July 2021, Qatar announced it would supply Lebanon’s army with 70 tonnes of foodstuff per month for a year.
The United States remains the biggest financial backer of the Lebanese military, and bumped up funding for the army by $15 million for 2021 to $120 million.
Lebanon’s financial crisis has been widely blamed on corruption and mismanagement by the ruling elite that has dominated the country since the end of its 1975-1990 civil war.
International donors, including wealthy Gulf Arab nations, have preconditioned assistance on key reforms being implemented.
In April, the International Monetary Fund announced that a conditional agreement had been reached to provide Lebanon with $3 billion in aid.
It warned, however, that the aid hinged on the implementation of reforms, including a financial recovery plan.
Some Gulf allies, such as regional power broker Saudi Arabia, have held off funds after a diplomatic spat last year over the growing dominance in Beirut politics of the Iran-backed Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement.