Defense Council Meets in Baabda amid Reported Pay Cuts

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A few days before the weekly cabinet meeting scheduled to start in Baabda to begin discussions of the 2019 draft budget law, a meeting was held at the Presidential Palace reportedly to "review pensions and compensations of the public sector," media reports said on Monday.

The Higher Defense Council convened at the behest of President Michel Aoun, with the participation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the concerned ministers, and chiefs of military and security apparatus, said the National News Agency.

Secretary-general of the Higher Defense Council, Brig. Gen. Mahmoud al-Asmar said in a statement after the meeting that "talks focused on the security situation and the question of people and goods smuggling across the border and illegal labor."

Asmar did not elaborate further but said: “It is to note that the Council's decisions are kept confidential.”

Al-Joumhouria daily quoted unnamed sources who said that discussions focused on "a project to review the financial compensations for military personnel acquired under measure "No. 3" in order to reclassify the beneficiaries between the operational forces and administrative ones and to reach a formula that reduces the financial burden of the Treasury."

However they added that this review "will not affect the basic salaries of military personnel or their financial, social, medical and educational benefits, nor the end of service benefits."

Over the weekend, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil suggested cuts to the salaries and allocations of government employees as one of several measures to cut spending in line with the government's austerity measures.

"The agenda is full and the discussions will also focus on the security situation and the arrangements in parallel with Easter and the situation on the southern border," they added.

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