Lebanese PM Hariri proposes new economic reforms to quell protests

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Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Sunday presented an economic plan to representatives of different political blocs to help ease the unrest that has led to mass protests across the country calling for the resignation of the government, according to a document seen by Al Arabiya.

The reforms include: cutting the salaries of current and former ministers by 50 percent; enforcing a 25 percent tax on banks and insurance companies; setting a salary cap for judges and government officials; and putting an end to all pension cuts for army and security forces.

According to the document, several government councils and ministries, including the Ministry of Information, will be canceled.

The document comes two days after the Prime Minister said on Friday that his “partners in the government” had 72 hours to show that they are serious about reforms, or he will take a different approach.

During his first address since the protests began, Hariri criticized government partners for holding up reforms and causing the protests.

“The Lebanese people have given us many chances and expected reform and job opportunities,” said Hariri.

“We can no longer wait for our partners in government to start working on the solution,” he said. The statements could put the future of the current Lebanese government into question.

Hariri currently heads a multi-party government which includes his Future Party movement and rivals the Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Future Patriotic Movement.

“The country is going through an unprecedented, difficult time,” added Hariri, who attempted to reassure protesters that reforms do not necessarily mean taxes.

Men, women and children gathered in the Lebanese capital Beirut Sunday to protest corruption and tax hikes for a fourth day, after the resignation of a key Christian party rocked the country’s fragile coalition government.

Demonstrations had flared on Thursday in response to a proposed $0.20-tax on calls via WhatsApp and other messaging services.

While the government quickly dropped the plans, the protests morphed into demands for a sweeping overhaul of Lebanon’s political system, with grievances ranging from austerity measures to poor infrastructure.

(With Agencies)

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