The Lebanese government, under the pressure of the street, adopts a series of reforms and the budget 2020

The Prime Minister's announcements did not seem to calm the protesters' wrath on Monday. Saad Hariri also said he was in favor of holding early elections.

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Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on October 21, 2019.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, October 21, 2019. MARWAN TAHTAH / AFP

Faced with unprecedented popular protest, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on Monday (October 21st) the adoption of a series of reforms and the 2020 budget, delayed or blocked by divisions within the government coalition. These measures were announced at the end of an extraordinary meeting of the government, while the protest movement triggered Thursday calls for the departure of the entire political class, deemed corrupt and unable to find solutions to the serious economic crisis. and social that endures.

The reforms adopted by the Hariri government

  • Halving the salary of presidents, ministers and parliamentarians, incumbent or honorary, and lowering various benefits to senior officials.
  • Suppression of the Ministry of Information and other public institutions.
  • Accelerating the issuance of licenses to build new power plants, a way to respond to the crisis in this expensive and failing sector that weighs heavily on public finances.
  • Contribution of private banks to the reduction of the budget deficit to 5,100 billion Lebanese pounds (3.03 billion euros), including through a tax on profits.
  • The draft budget adopted by the Council of Ministers provides for a deficit of 0.6% in 2020.

At this press conference, however, Saad Hariri said that the adoption of key reforms by his government was not intended to put an end to the unprecedented protest movement that has shaken Lebanon for five days and that "These decisions (had) not taken for haggling ". On the other hand, the head of the government directly addressed the demonstrators and assured them of his support concerning the early elections that they demand: "Your voice is heard, and if you call for early elections (…)I, Saad Hariri, am personally with you. " The last legislative elections took place in May 2018.

Tens of thousands of protesters in Beirut

Broadcast live by loudspeakers on the grounds of giant gatherings in downtown Beirut, the announcements of Mr. Hariri apparently did not convince: they were greeted by tens of thousands of protesters shouting for "Revolution, revolution" and "The people want the fall of the regime", the key slogans of the protest. "Lie is a lie"exclaimed Chantal, a 40-year-old protester with a Lebanese flag drawn on her face. "It's powder in the eyes. Who can guarantee that these reforms will be implemented? "she asked.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese had demonstrated in a festive atmosphere to demand, from north to south of the country, the departure of a political class accused of plundering the country where more than a quarter of the population lives below the threshold of poverty and has a public debt of 150% of its gross domestic product. From Beirut to the predominantly Sunni city of Tripoli in the north, from Shiite communities in the south to the Druze or Christian cities in the east, the Lebanese marched to express their rage for the fourth day of this movement. unprecedented scale.

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The move, which paralyzes the country with the closure of banks, public institutions and many stores, started spontaneously Thursday after the announcement of a tax on calls made via WhatsApp. A measure intended to bail out a little the bloodless finances of the country but which had to be canceled immediately under the pressure of the street.

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