Lebanon too broke to pay soldiers enough, army warns ahead of donor meet

Lebanon too broke to pay soldiers enough, army warns ahead of donor meet
Lebanese army soldiers during a military parade. Lebanon is unable to pay its soldiers enough, the army warned on Wednesday ahead of a UN-backed conference during which donors seek to shore up one of the bankrupt country’s key institutions. (AFP)
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Updated 16 June 2021

Lebanon too broke to pay soldiers enough, army warns ahead of donor meet

Lebanon too broke to pay soldiers enough, army warns ahead of donor meet
  • "We are in need of food parcels, healthcare assistance and support with soldiers' pay," a military source told AFP
  • Lebanon's economic crisis has eaten away at soldiers' pay and slashed the military's budget for maintenance and equipment

BEIRUT: Lebanon is unable to pay its soldiers enough, the army warned Wednesday ahead of a UN-backed conference during which donors will seek to shore up one of the bankrupt country’s key institutions.
Unlike previous conferences designed to provide training, weapons or equipment for Lebanon’s armed forces, the virtual meeting hosted by France on Thursday aims to offer the kind of humanitarian assistance usually reserved for countries grappling with conflict or natural disaster.
“We are in need of food parcels, health care assistance and support with soldiers’ pay,” a military source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The devaluation of the Lebanese pound is affecting soldiers and they are in need of support. Their salaries are not enough anymore.”
Lebanon’s economic crisis, which the World Bank has labelled as one of the world’s worst since the 1850s, has eaten away at soldiers’ pay and slashed the military’s budget for maintenance and equipment, further threatening the country’s stability.
Already mid last year, the army said it had scrapped meat from the meals offered to on-duty soldiers, due to rising food prices.
“We are doing the impossible to ease the suffering and the economic woes of our soldiers,” army chief Joseph Aoun said in a speech on Tuesday.
“We are forced to turn to allied states to secure aid, and I am ready to go to the end of the world to procure assistance so that the army can stay on its feet.”
Around 20 countries, including the United States, EU member states, Gulf countries, Russia and China have been invited to take part in the conference alongside UN representatives.
It follows a visit by Aoun last month to Paris, where he warned that the army could face even darker days without emergency support.
“The Lebanese army is going through a major crisis, which could get worse due to the deteriorating economic and social situation in Lebanon, which may worsen when subsidies are lifted,” he said.
He was referring to a government plan to scrap subsidies on essential goods such as fuel, food and flour to shore up dwindling foreign currency reserves.
A source close to French Defense Minister Florence Parly said Wednesday that the crisis was alarming as the Lebanese military is the “key institution” maintaining security in the country.
The army has highlighted “very specific needs” for milk, flour, medicine, fuel and spare parts for maintenance, the source said, in requests amounting to “several tens of thousands of euros.”
The aid was needed “as soon as possible,” the source said, stressing “the urgency of the situation.”
Whether or not the aid would be in cash or in kind was to be discussed on Thursday.
France is expected to announce deliveries of medical equipment to combat the coronavirus and spare parts for armored vehicles and helicopters.
The United States pledged to make a contribution during a meeting Tuesday in Brussels between Parly and her American counterpart Lloyd Austin.
The Lebanese army has been relying heavily on food donations from allied states since last summer’s monster port explosion in Beirut that killed more than 200 people and damaged swathes of the capital.
France, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey are among the army’s main food donors.
Iraq and Spain have offered medical assistance.
The United States remains the biggest financial backer of the Lebanese military.
It has bumped up funding for the army by $15 million for this year to $120 million.
Aram Nerguizian of the Carnegie Middle East Center said the “Paris conference is meant to prompt partner nations to think creatively about how to help the LAF (army) through 2021.”
In a report published on Wednesday, he said the assistance would “allow the command of the armed forces to focus on its missions — border security, counterterrorism, internal stability — as opposed to fighting a singular battle to maintain the LAF’s stability, with no real Lebanese government assistance.”


Saudi school principal gets into Guinness for largest mural using water bottle caps

The Green Leaves Playgroup principal broke last year’s record with a 250 sq. meter map of the world. The previous record belonged to Caroline Chaptini, who created a 196.94 sq. meter crescent mosaic. Inset: (Khulood Al-Fadli Supplied)
The Green Leaves Playgroup principal broke last year’s record with a 250 sq. meter map of the world. The previous record belonged to Caroline Chaptini, who created a 196.94 sq. meter crescent mosaic. Inset: (Khulood Al-Fadli Supplied)
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi school principal gets into Guinness for largest mural using water bottle caps

The Green Leaves Playgroup principal broke last year’s record with a 250 sq. meter map of the world. The previous record belonged to Caroline Chaptini, who created a 196.94 sq. meter crescent mosaic. Inset: (Khulood Al-Fadli Supplied)
  • With determination and consistency, Khulood Al-Fadli continued her work ‘and never gave up’

JEDDAH: Khulood Al-Fadli, a school principal in Jeddah, has joined the ranks of Guinness World Records holders by creating the planet’s largest mosaic using plastic bottle caps.

The Green Leaves Playgroup principal broke last year’s record with a 250-square-meter map of the world using 350,000 plastic bottle caps. The previous record belonged to Caroline Chaptini, who created a 196.94-square- meter crescent mosaic in Miziara, Lebanon.
“I feel beyond the moon. I really felt my work had paid off,” Al-Fadli told Arab News.
“The image doesn’t matter as the size determines if I’m breaking a record and Guinness World Records had so many requirements to break a record or set a new record,” she said.
Meeting the requirements to break the record proved especially difficult due to turbulent weather conditions affecting her outdoor mosaic.
“I went through difficult days of the wind blowing all my water caps away, which delayed the project for a week. But with determination, consistency and with the help of my volunteers and most of all my family and husband, I continued my work and never gave up,” she said.
The project was aimed at shedding light on three events; World Environment Day — collecting plastic and recycling — World Oceans Day — not throwing plastics into oceans or the sea because of its negative effects on the environment — and United Nations Public Service Day — the importance of community volunteering. Al-Fadli said that all three world days met Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and its sustainable goals.

HIGHLIGHT

The project was aimed at shedding light on three events; World Environment Day — collecting plastic and recycling — World Oceans Day — not throwing plastics into oceans or the sea because of its negative effects on the environment — and United Nations Public Service Day — the importance of community volunteering.

She said that her target volunteers were children, “since they are the future generation.” Al-Fadli was first inspired by student responses after she introduced the topic of global warming and recycling to children at the school.
Al-Fadli said that one pupil had asked: “’Does that mean our earth will die?’ She continued: “He questioned angrily, almost saying how dare people do this to our only planet.”
She told him that people could start change with themselves and a simple step to save the earth was to “collect plastics and make a humane project out of it.”
With the help of her students, family and friends, and the growing number of plastic bottle cap donors, “within 40 days of work, the news kept spreading and people from all over Jeddah, Makkah, Madinah and Taif came to donate.”
She said that the donors were eager to see the outcome, with even the youngest of volunteers excited to see the end result. “They were amazed by how lovely and huge the map is, they promised to save plastics and reuse them or donate it to me for the sake of the Earth.”
Al-Fadli said that creating art out of recyclables was a fulfilling experience — and that she had always had an affinity for maps while growing up.
“Since I was a child, I used to love drawing maps. I don’t know why but it feels like I’m flying. Seeing a huge map was like a dream,” she said.


What We Are Reading Today: Moon, Sun, and Witches by Irene Marsha Silverblatt

What We Are Reading Today: Moon, Sun, and Witches by Irene Marsha Silverblatt
Updated 14 min 48 sec ago

What We Are Reading Today: Moon, Sun, and Witches by Irene Marsha Silverblatt

What We Are Reading Today: Moon, Sun, and Witches by Irene Marsha Silverblatt

When the Spanish arrived in Peru in 1532, men of the Inca Empire worshipped the Sun as Father and their dead kings as ancestor heroes, while women venerated the Moon and her daughters, the Inca queens, as founders of female dynasties. 

In the pre-Inca period such notions of parallel descent were expressions of complementarity between men and women. Examining the interplay between gender ideologies and political hierarchy, Irene Silverblatt shows how Inca rulers used their Sun and Moon traditions as methods of controlling women and the Andean peoples the Incas conquered. She then explores the process by which the Spaniards employed European male and female imageries to establish their own rule in Peru and to make new inroads on the power of native women, particularly poor peasant women.

Harassed economically and abused sexually, Andean women fought back, earning in the process the Spaniards’ condemnation as “witches.” Fresh from the European witch hunts that damned women for susceptibility to heresy and diabolic influence, Spanish clerics were predisposed to charge politically disruptive poor women with witchcraft. 

Silverblatt shows that these very accusations provided women with an ideology of rebellion and a method for defending their culture


‘Our protests will become fiercer’ say families of Beirut blast victims

A general view shows the site of the deadly Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut’s port, almost a year since the blast. The explosion killed more than 200 people. (Reuters)
A general view shows the site of the deadly Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut’s port, almost a year since the blast. The explosion killed more than 200 people. (Reuters)
Updated 17 min 2 sec ago

‘Our protests will become fiercer’ say families of Beirut blast victims

A general view shows the site of the deadly Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut’s port, almost a year since the blast. The explosion killed more than 200 people. (Reuters)
  • Rights group Amnesty International accused the Lebanese authorities of spending “the past year shamelessly obstructing the victims’ quest for truth and justice in the aftermath of the catastrophic blast

BEIRUT: The people of Lebanon will on Wednesday mark the first anniversary of the devastating explosion at Beirut’s port, the country’s worst peacetime disaster.
The massive blast that destroyed a large section of the capital on Aug. 4, killed at least 214 people and injured more than 6,500. It was caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored at the port for several years without proper safety precautions.
The families of those who died will hold a commemorative religious service at the port, business owners have said they will cover the city with black ribbons on Wednesday, and activists are planning anti-government demonstrations.
Lebanese flags were raised over balconies and shops in the city on Monday ahead of the anniversary.
A year after the tragedy, the families of the victims remain determined to ensure justice is served and those responsible for the failures that resulted in the explosion are held to account.
“Our protests will soon become fiercer,” said Ibrahim Hoteit, whose brother, Tharwat, died.
He condemned “the heinous state that did not even bother to console us,” and added: “(They) removed Judge Fadi Sawan just because he came close to (their) sectarian and political idols. Today, this whole play is being repeated under a new title: ‘immunity’ (from prosecution).”
Sawan, who was appointed to investigate the explosion, was removed from the investigation in February after two former ministers he had accused of negligence filed a complaint. In addition, requests for immunity to be lifted from a number of top officials so that they can be questioned have not been granted.
Hoteit, who said he was speaking on behalf of the families of the victims, gave “the state 30 hours to lift immunity from the defendants, including former ministers, present lawmakers and security officials.”
He added: “The authorities are asking us to pacify the street movements on Aug. 4 — we are not the police of discipline. The people of Lebanon have the right to express their anger and rage by all available and legitimate means after you destroyed the country. Never expect us to be your mediators.”
A committee of the victims’ families announced on Monday that they reject any attempt to politicize their cause.
In a statement issued for the anniversary of the explosion, rights group Amnesty International accused the Lebanese authorities of spending “the past year shamelessly obstructing the victims’ quest for truth and justice in the aftermath of the catastrophic blast.”
Waleed Taha, 67, who was only a few hundred meters from the explosion, told Arab News: “If someone can help me on Wednesday, I will certainly take part in the mourning day with the families of the victims, the wounded and protesters.
“I feel like doing something crazy, maybe destroying something, but my mind is stopping me. Anger will not do me any good and will not heal the wounds I have been suffering from since the explosion, which broke my ribs, shoulder and knee and has left me sleepless ever since.”
Taha, who is an electrical engineer, worked in Jeddah for 10 years before returning home to Beirut in 2015 to be with his family. He loves fishing and had obtained a permit from Lebanon’s General Security that allowed him to fish at the port. He said that Aug. 4 was the first day he had gone there to fish after a COVID-19 lockdown was lifted. He was at dock 11, where the Orient Queen cruise ship was docked. At about 5 p.m., he called his wife and told her he could see a fire at dock 9, only 300 meters away. He thought the silo there contained only fireworks.
“I spoke to the other fishermen and we decided to stay because it was just fireworks,” he said.
However the sounds of explosions got louder and louder, he said.
“I was standing in front of the cruise ship and could not see what was happening,” he said. “At around 6 p.m. an explosion occurred and sent rocks flying to where I was standing. I rushed to my car. Filipino hostesses from the cruise ship’s staff were walking on the dock and one of them came to my car for protection.
“When the second, massive blast hit, the car was thrown intro the sea — but the waves, which were as high as a 10-story building, threw us back to where we were. I lost consciousness until my son came looking for me in the rubble.
“I heard his voice calling me and all I was able to do was raise my head and tell him ‘I am here.’ He called the Civil Defense, who rescued me and took me to the hospital. My son had to walk between tens of bodies and injured people who were bleeding.”
Taha said that three of his closest friends died on the dock “including two retired officers and a greengrocer fishing to provide for his family.”
He added: “On that day, more than 50 people were jogging on the port’s docks. Some of them died, some of them were injured and disabled. A friend of mine survived the blast because he had moved to dock 14 to find more fish. The Filipino girls that were near me disappeared, maybe drowned in the sea.”
Taha said he paid his own treatment and recovery expenses and that “no one cared for the injured and their fates.”
He added: “I am reliving the shock every single day; I probably need therapy, I do not know. But I lost my job as I cannot walk long distances and I am in pain.”
He is pessimistic about the chances of the truth about the explosion and those responsible being revealed, saying that the truth about the assassination of former US president John F. Kennedy would be known before who is to blame for the Beirut blast. He added that he feels hopeless about the prospects for justice in a country where the state does not care about its citizens.
“I used to pass in front of the silo that contained the ammonium nitrate every day,” Taha said. “It was an abandoned silo with a rusty door, where some people used to urinate.
“To enter the port, one had to pass through three security checkpoints where army intelligence, the general security and the army checked the identities of those going in and the permissions they had — but the explosion still happened.”


‘Social isolation’ after Aug. 1 changes will boost jab uptake, says Saudi official

Almost all of the Saudi population are soon expected to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (SPA)
Almost all of the Saudi population are soon expected to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (SPA)
Updated 33 min 36 sec ago

‘Social isolation’ after Aug. 1 changes will boost jab uptake, says Saudi official

Almost all of the Saudi population are soon expected to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (SPA)
  • Ban on unvaccinated people entering events, businesses is latest policy to end pandemic

JEDDAH: People in Saudi Arabia who refuse to receive a COVID-19 vaccine will be left “socially isolated” following the Aug. 1 ban, a health official has said, urging Saudis and residents to take immediate action and receive a jab.

Dr. Naser Tawfiq, assistant professor of anesthetics and ICU, warned that as a result of the policy, no one would be allowed to enter any governmental institution without being vaccinated.
“This decision will certainly reduce any negative attitude that disdains the vaccine. One who tries to avoid getting the vaccine will be socially isolated. Their isolation is good for us because all of society wants to get back to normal life, and the only safe solution is to get the vaccine,” Tawfiq said.
He added that by receiving a vaccine and complying with precautionary measures, people can live “almost a normal life” at this stage of the pandemic.
Residents of the Kingdom are required to receive at least one jab or have recovered from COVID-19 to attend social, cultural, sports and entertainment gatherings, and enter private, government or commercial establishments.
Health authorities have called on residents to register for the vaccine, and centers across the Kingdom have been urged to provide more time slots to accommodate the growing numbers of applicants.
Meanwhile, almost all of the Saudi population are soon expected to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to the workplace, Abdulmohsin Al-Huwaidi, a human resources specialist, told Al-Ekhbariya TV channel, adding that the majority of people in the Kingdom have now received a vaccine.

FASTFACTS

• Saudi Arabia reported 1,063 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday.

• The death toll rose to 8,259 after 10 more virus-related deaths were recorded.

“This can clearly show the good quality of work in these health organizations and the high level of awareness in society,” Al-Huwaidi said.
So far, 27,638,716 people in the Kingdom have received a jab against COVID-19, including 1,481,272 elderly people.
Al-Huwaidi added that the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development has approved a variety of options to deal with the unvaccinated workers.
“This gradual plan of dealing with unvaccinated employees begins with directing them to work remotely, and this is an option for the organizations in which job tasks can be done remotely,” he said.
He added: “I think we will see the whole community — both citizens and residents — fully vaccinated in the near future.” However, he noted that people who are excluded from taking the vaccine could continue to work from their homes.
In another move to curb the spread of coronavirus, the Saudi Public Prosecution office has warned that it will impose fines of up to SR500,000 ($133,323) on passengers breaching travel ban restrictions by boarding flights to countries hit by severe COVID-19 outbreaks. Similar penalties will also apply to operators or owners of the means of transportation, the authority said.
In a recent tweet, officials added that severe punitive measures would be taken against travelers who failed to disclose that they had visited any countries listed on the Kingdom’s COVID-19 travel ban list.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Monday reported 10 more COVID-19-related deaths, taking the death toll over the course of the pandemic to 8,259.
There were 1,063 new cases, meaning that 527,877 people in the country have now contracted the disease. A total of 10,624 cases remained active, of which 1,434 patients were in critical condition.
Of the newly recorded cases, 244 were in the Makkah region, 217 in the Riyadh region, 152 in the Eastern Province, and 70 in the Madinah region.
The Ministry of Health said that 1,620 patients recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 508,994.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 25,226,779 PCR tests, with 98,862 completed in the past 24 hours.
Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
Among them, Taakad (make sure) centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual, while Tetamman (rest assured) clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.
Appointments for either service can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.


Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief

Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief

Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief
  • Elkuwaiz says assets under management by financial institutions have increased by 50 percent

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is seeing a record interests from companies to sell shares to the public, while the size of the assets under management by financial institutions increased by 50 percent to SR600 billion over 3 years, the chairman of the country’s capital market authority said.

The increase in the volume of assets under management (AUM) had impact on the financial market and has contributed to opening new investments areas such as the launch of financial derivatives market, which made a debut last year, Mohammed Elkuwaiz said in panel hosted by the Financial Academy.

The authority received recently 30 requests to sell shares in initial public offerings and this is the highest number the authority, known as CMA, got since its establishment, he added. 

Mohammed Elkuwaiz, CMA chairman

Saudi Arabia is implementing a huge program to modernize and develop its financial sector under the country’s vision 2030 plan. Under this program the CMA had a target to list 20 new companies in 2021 on the Saudi index through public offerings, and the authority had achieved half of this target by the end of the first half of the year, Elkuawiz said.

Interests from companies to sell shares to the public increased over the past few years with the introduction of the parallel market, known as Nomu. Elkuwaiz explained that the main market, Tadawul, targets larger and more mature companies with the ability and willingness to bear big loads in terms of disclosure data, governance, while smaller companies prefer to list on Nomu.

“Listing on Nomu is an exciting window for the small and medium size and entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia as we see the increase in IPOs interest and this is the result of the CMA strategy,” said Mohammed Ramady, an independent economic analyst and former senior banker told the Arab News in comments on Saudi financial development.

Another area where Saudi Arabia is venturing and advancing is Fintech. “We have more than 15 companies licensed as financial technology companies, which facilitates the availability of other types of financing that did not exist in the past, such as crowdfunding, which has become a boost for the financial market,” Elkuwaiz added.

The chairman of CMA also noted that foreign investments in the Saudi stock market have been positive and steady since they were allowed several years ago, with more than SR20 billion has entered Tadawul market since it was included in global indexes.

“The system of governance and disclosure in the financial market has been developed, making the Kingdom one of the world’s top 4 countries in terms of governance – something we are very proud of,” he added.