Cash-strapped Lebanese army sells helicopter tours during economic crisis
HAMAT AIR BASE, Lebanon, July 9 (Reuters) – Hit by the collapse of the Lebanese economy, the military has started selling towers on its helicopters to finance their maintenance, a measure of the depth of the financial problems facing the country is facing.
“The war we are in is economic and therefore requires unconventional means (…) and the idea we had was to do helicopter tours,” said Colonel Hassan Barakat, spokesperson for the army.
“The cost of these trips ensures the essential maintenance of the planes. A 15-minute ride in an Army Robinson R44 training helicopter costs $ 150.
Lebanon is suffering from what the World Bank has described as one of the deepest depressions in modern history. The currency has lost over 90% of its value in less than two years and more than half of the population has fallen into poverty.
Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun warned last month that the crisis, caused by decades of corruption and waste in government, would lead to the collapse of all state institutions, including including the military, noting that the value of a soldier’s monthly salary was now $ 90.
A major beneficiary of American military support, the army has supported the stability of Lebanon since the end of the civil war of 1975-90. Qatar announced this week that it will provide the military with 70 tonnes of food per month.
“It is a great experience for my children to see Lebanon and the beautiful Lebanese coast from the air,” said Adib Dakkash, 43, from Switzerland.
“I’d rather spend $ 150 to keep army helicopters running, to keep pilots and officers flying, instead of spending it in a restaurant, on food or trivial things.”
Report by Issam Abdallah; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Raïssa Kasolowsky
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