LebanonMiddle East

4th Day of Protests in Lebanon: Reform Package to Involve Banks, Ministers-MPs Salaries

Demonstrators from all over Lebanon took to major cities streets for the fourth consecutive day on Sunday despite rain in protest against imposing new taxes and tough living conditions, urging a shortened cabinet meeting to be held to issue a reform package.

Hundreds of people began to gather in the country’s major cities, with the biggest demonstration set to be held in Beirut’s Riad al-Solh at noon.

Tents were set up in the area facing the government’s headquarters, the Grand Serail.

On Sunday morning, protesters gathered trash and cleaned the streets as key roads around the country remain blocked for a fourth day and in areas near the capital such as Dora, Jisr al-Wati, Sin el-Fil, Nahr el-Mot and Jal el-Dib.

Central demonstrations were also underway in major cities such as Tripoli and Tyre.

In Tripoli and Batroun, in north Lebanon; Tyre, in south Lebanon; Deir al-Qamar, in Mount Lebanon, and many other towns, thousands took to the streets. Buses also took protesters from Bekaa to Beirut to join the Riad al-Solh protest.

Protests first erupted on Thursday, sparked by a proposed 20 US-cent tax on calls via messaging apps such as WhatsApp.

But as Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said on Saturday, the proposed tax was the straw that broke the camel’s back. “The current crisis is not something new, it has been accumulating for the last ten or twenty years,” Sayyed Nasrallah said during a ceremony marking Arbaeen in Baalbek.

“Some in power thought that raising taxes can pass again like before, they go for the easier choice, the people’s pockets. However, the demonstrations relayed a strong message to officials that they won’t bear or tolerate that anymore,” he added.

The Association of Banks in Lebanon issued Sunday a press release, announcing that banks will be closed tomorrow (Monday), the National News Agency reported as protesters were voicing their rejection to the “Rule of Banks” in the country.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri has given the ministers until Monday evening to give back a reform package aimed at shoring up the government’s finances and securing desperately needed economic assistance from donors.

But the Lebanese Forces party faded away from proposing solutions and announced the resignation of its four ministers from the government on Saturday night.

According to Al-Manar correspondent, the reform package includes the involvement of banks in the solution and the reductions of ministers and MPs’ allocations and salaries.

The correspondent reported that a short cabinet meeting was chaired by Hariri to finalize the economic paper, paving the way for an emergency and fateful government session at the presidential palace soon.

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