Lebanese govt to tighten soldiers’ eligibility for frontline benefits

Lebanese govt to tighten soldiers’ eligibility for frontline benefits
The Lebanese army

The Lebanese government said on Friday that only soldiers serving at the frontline with Israel would benefit from a financial incentive that was designed for frontline troops but has been widely applied.

A demand for the strict application of the "Measure3" scheme was included in a tough draft budget that has triggered strikesand protests in recent weeks, including by retired soldiers.

The Lebanese economy is saddled with one the heaviestpublic debt burdens in the world, and Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said thisweek that failure to pass a "realistic" budget would be tantamount toa "suicide operation".

The public sector wage bill is the government's biggestexpense, followed by debt servicing costs.

Under "Measure 3", one year of frontline serviceis counted as three when it comes to calculating soldiers' end-of-careercompensation.

"The government will apply the law that stipulates that Measure 3 is (applied for soldiers) in confrontation with the Israeli enemy," Information Minister Jamal al-Jarrah said, adding that retirement ages for soldiers would be raised.

Ex-soldiers set ablaze tyres in a protest against the NEWrestriction outside the government headquarters on Friday, the latestdemonstration against cuts to their benefits.

The Lebanese army, a big recipient of U.S. military aid, is widely deployed inside the country and has been seen as a pillar of its stability since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.

Jarrah said it would be left up to the command of thesecurity apparatus to determine in which situations Measure 3 should beapplied.

"This means they will determine with cabinet exceptionalcircumstances the country may pass through and when" the differentmeasures are applied, he added after a cabinet meeting.

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