DUBAI: With Lebanon’s military - one of the last institutions remaining above the country’s deep divisions - struggling to make ends meet, it has found a somewhat odd yet ingenious way to boost its coffers.
The idea? Offering tourists helicopter rides as a way to see “Lebanon … from above,” a statement on the army’s website said.
Lebanon has been hit with its most severe economic and financial crisis in decades, which the world bank has predicted will rank as one of the worst the world has seen in more than 150 years.
This has taken a toll on the military as well with the Lebanese pound losing around 90 percent of its value against the dollar.
Soldiers, who use to earn the equivalent of $1,000 a month, have seen their monthly income plunge to some $85, while hyperinflation soars and subsidies start being rolled back.
“We have bookings starting tomorrow,” Army spokesman Col. Elias Aad told Arab News, adding that a 15 minute ride will cost $150 cash.
The rides will take place on the military’s Robinson R44 helicopters and will be open to passengers aged 3-years and above, the statement said.
Up to three people will be allowed on each flight, Aad said, with those interested required to fill out a form on the army’s website and specifying what area they would like to tour.
The crisis has made it hard for the army to maintain its budget for equipment, maintenance and supplies.
Last year, the army said it had scrapped meat from the meals it offers on-duty soldiers due to skyrocketing food prices.
“Lebanon is facing an unprecedented economic crisis and the lack of solutions in the near future has become evident,” the head of the army, General Aoun said earlier in June.
In a bid to preserve the stability of the military, international donors in June pledged tens of millions of dollars worth of emergency aid to help it meet human and basic maintenance needs.