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Lebanon: Government in Lebanon announces reforms

2019-10-21T16:12:50.922Z

After days of protests, the Lebanese government meets the demonstrators with economic reforms. Prime Minister Saad Hariri offers new elections.



After the mass protests against mismanagement and corruption, the government of Lebanon wants to calm the situation with a series of measures. The Cabinet agreed on Monday with a plan submitted by Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The demonstrations had ensured that the reforms had been approved, Hariri said after the cabinet meeting.

According to him, among other things, the salaries of ministers and members of parliament to be cut by half. Government institutions should be closed or merged. New taxes would not be levied next year, the Prime Minister promised. The state has a duty to protect peaceful demonstrations. "I will not ask the protesters to end their protests, and if they want early parliamentary elections, I will support that," Hariri said in a speech after a cabinet emergency meeting, according to Lebanese media reports.

The protesters in Beirut, however, were not happy after Hariri's announcements and called for the government's resignation. They called, among other things, "revolution, revolution". The premier's statement was disappointing, a student said. Others said they had no confidence in the government. "They try to give us painkillers," a protester said. Because of the protests, many shops and banks in Beirut were closed on Monday.

Riots for several days

The protests started on Thursday. Among other things, the announcement was made by the government to charge a daily fee for the use of communication services such as WhatsApp for telephoning. Protesters blocked roads and set fire to barricades. Human rights activists criticized security forces for using excessive force.

In the face of ongoing protests, the gas station operators' association has called on protesters to open the streets for fuel transporters. Petrol and fuel are vital "also for hospitals, bakeries, power generators, food transports and ambulances," said union leader Sami Braks, according to the state-owned Lebanese news agency "NNA". If the street blockades last longer than Tuesday, it will affect citizens' health and social security.

According to a report by the newspaper Orient Le Jour , the unification of the press called for journalists to cross the roadblocks so that they could gain access to the various protest centers and "fulfill their professional obligations". Previously, the nurses' union had called on demonstrators not to interfere with medical personnel in their work and to ensure free access to hospitals and health facilities.

The small Mediterranean country with around six million inhabitants struggles with an economic and financial crisis and suffers from the war in neighboring Syria. The national debt is 86 billion US dollars (more than 77 billion euros), which corresponds to a quota of about 150 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). It is one of the highest debt ratios in the world. Critics accuse the government of having dragged on reforms for years.

Source: zeit

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