Protests against tax hikes have entered their fifth day in Lebanon as the parliament prepares to approve such plans in the coming weeks. Protesters are claiming that the government should instead focus on fighting corruption as they accuse officials of embezzling public funds through shady public-private contracts.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri tried to calm down protesters in Beirut on Sunday but the interaction with them was short cut with bottles of water being thrown at him.
Authorities claim that they want to increase taxes in order to facilitate the funding of a wage increment in the public sector. A percentage point increment of the sales tax was approved last week in parliament but extending it to other sectors has been met with protests.
Prime Minister Hariri admitted that “the road will be long” but assured Lebanese that his government will be on their side in fighting corruption.
There have been calls from several civil society groups and some leading political parties in recent days for people to take to the streets and protest against the tax plans. However, Hariri thinks that forming a committee that can “raise their demands and discuss them positively” with the authorities would help to reach a lasting solution.
The Christian Kataeb party and the Progressive Socialist Party are against the tax hike plans while Hezbollah stated that it has reservations against some of the taxes.
Speaker of the parliament, Nabih Berri said the protests will not affect improving the wages for the civil servants but was silent about that of the taxation. He said it is the government’s responsibility “to find the revenues to fund the (wage) scale” describing it as “the people’s rightful demand.” He concluded that “the wage scale is going to be approved in the end.”