Beirut is overrun with protesters as the Lebanon government has proposed levying higher taxes to combat their growing deficit, but Lebanese citizens are unwilling to bear further stress to combat their government’s misappropriation.
Chants of “We Will Not Pay” erupted with burgeoning frustration over government corruption.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri addressed the protesters, “The road will be long … and we will be by your side and will fight corruption.” However, shortly thereafter, protesters shouted “thief” and hurled plastic water bottles at him.
As of 2016, Lebanon’s public debt reached an alarming 161.5% of GDP, compared to 147.6% in 2015.
Concerned that government expenditures are misappropriated, a protester, Tania al-Khoury, commented, “Imposing taxes that constantly pile up, without providing anything in return, no services, no public transportation, no medical care.”
Another protester, Mahmoud Fakih, added, “We had hopes for this new government, but unfortunately … these politicians are still exploiting resources for their profit. This is to refuse the taxes that are being imposed on poor people.”
The increase also faces opposition from within Lebanon’s diverse government. The Christian Kataeb party, the Progressive Socialist Party, and Hezbollah have all raised concerns over the burdensome tax rates.
Adding to the economic crisis is a political fiasco. Current lawmakers were voted into office in 2009 for an expected four-year term, that has twice been extended. For 29 months, Lebanon was gridlocked politically without a leader, even to the point of garbage-removal being halted. Recently a deal was brokered between Hariri and Michel Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah, to end the gridlock.
With the Lebanese household income being low, coupled with faithlessness in the government, this move isn’t well-received.
Photo: Reuters, Al Jazeera
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