Samer’s salary, a soldier in the Lebanese army, is no longer enough to provide him with the basic needs of his house, so he found the solution to work mechanically in addition to his military service, hoping to secure a better life for his young family amid the economic collapse that is ravaging the country.
Samer is one of the thousands of members of the army and security forces in Lebanon who are now practicing a second profession, to compensate for the low value of their salaries after the deterioration of the value of the national currency, although the military regulations prohibit this and their violators are subject to penalties.
However, in light of the economic collapse and the loss of about 98 percent of the value of the lira, the leadership of the military and security forces turns a blind eye to the issue, in order to allow its members to secure what the bankrupt state is unable to provide.
Samer (28 years old), who asked to use a pseudonym, told AFP: “The military establishment knows that we are working, but it turns a blind eye, because the military can no longer bear it.” 80 percent of the population in Lebanon lives below the poverty line.
The young man, who is currently working in a car repair shop run by his uncle in the city of Tripoli (north), one of the poorest cities on the eastern basin of the Mediterranean, recounts: “If we had not done that, everyone would have fled and not a single member of the army would have remained.”
Samer, a father of a young child, joined the military when he was 19 years old, thinking that he would “guarantee his future,” with the continuity, medicine, and social advancements offered by the job in the public sector in Lebanon, but the crisis turned his life upside down.
And he explains: “My salary was equal to 800 dollars before the crisis, today I only get 100 dollars,” with the temporary increases and measures that were approved to support salaries.
Every week, Samer spends 3 days in his military service, and works another 3 days in the workshop. However, his income is “less than enough to secure food, drink, diapers and milk.”
With the authorities unable to contain the crisis and the repercussions of the collapse of the lira, Qatar began, in the summer of 2022, to provide financial support to the army in the form of financial assistance of $100 to its members for a period of 6 months.
The United States took the same step, as it started last month, in coordination with the United Nations Development Program, to provide financial assistance in the amount of $100 per month over a period of 6 months to members of the Internal Security Forces, provided that this applies to the army as well.
But in a country where inflation is huge and the exchange rate of the lira changes daily, aid makes no difference.
And Samer adds, “At the end of the month, I don’t even have a thousand pounds left with me.”
* “we suffocated”
The economic collapse has put all sectors, including the army and security forces, facing several challenges, most notably continuing to secure basic needs such as food, medicine, fuel, maintenance of equipment, and maintaining medical care at its level.
Since the beginning of the crisis, the army leadership has relied on austerity in its budget. For example, meat has been reduced from the military meals. Then, in 2021, it launched helicopter tours for civilians, in return for a fee.-
After he tried to reconcile his military service with working as a waiter in a well-known restaurant near Beirut, Ahmed decided to flee the army and devote himself to his work.-
Ahmed (29 years old), who is a pseudonym for the French Agency, says: “I grew up loving the military uniform. I still love her, but we suffocated.” Ahmed has spent 10 years at the Foundation.
“I left the army because I found there was no hope of survival,” the young man explains. “I felt like I was living in the gutter. I only got better when I fled.”
After his military salary did not exceed $50 a year and a half ago, he now earns $450 as a waiter. Today, he is eagerly awaiting the birth of his first child.
The fields in which the soldiers work are varied, such as restaurants, bakeries, agriculture, hairdressing, taxi driving, construction, and even as private security personnel.
The army command did not respond to the French Press Agency’s questions on the matter.
The same suffering applies to the security forces, whose situation appears to be more difficult than the military institution, which receives aid from several countries, most notably the United States, to confront the economic crisis.
* «No solutions»
A security source told the agency that “the Internal Security Forces turn a blind eye to the members doing side jobs, because there are no other solutions, as the state is unable to improve their salaries and all the burdens, even school fees, are now in dollars.”
He says, “We are trying to help them as much as possible, but even the hundred dollars provided by the United States is not sufficient in light of the current situation.”
The budget allocated for the treatment of security personnel is no longer sufficient, with the high cost of hospitalization, and hospitals receiving financial allowances in dollars.
The salary of Eli (37 years), a member of the Internal Security Forces and father of three children, today does not exceed the threshold of 50 dollars today, so he only joined his father to help him in the agricultural work, to provide additional income, albeit a little.
And “the worst thing about it,” according to Eli, is that “there is no longer a doctor. If I break my leg during my shift, I have to bear the cost of treatment,” and he adds, “Simply put, our situation is miserable.”
The economic crisis, according to what the researcher at the Control Risks Center, Dina Araji, explained to the agency, affected “the ability of the security services to work appropriately and the morale” of their members.
With ignoring the practice of security and army personnel in other professions, the ability of the agencies to “respond to the needs of internal security in the country is threatened,” as she said, in a country witnessing political division and stagnation affecting the work of all institutions.