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Hundreds protest in Beirut against Lebanon tax hike

High school and primary school teachers holding umbrellas stage a demonstration demanding a wage increase at Riad Al Solh Square as the government holds a meeting on budget in Beirut, Lebanon on March 15, 2017 [ Ratib Al Safadi / Anadolu Agency
High school and primary school teachers holding umbrellas stage a demonstration demanding a wage increase at Riad Al Solh Square as the government holds a meeting on budget in Beirut, Lebanon on March 15, 2017 [ Ratib Al Safadi / Anadolu Agency

Hundreds of people protested in central Beirut today against proposed tax rises that the Lebanese parliament is considering to fund a new wage increase for public employees.

Carrying placards and banners, more than a thousand protesters flocked to Riad Al-Solh square, chanting “We will not pay” and waving Lebanese flags.

Scores of policemen barricaded the entrances to the government headquarters and parliament during the protest, which followed three days of smaller demonstrations in Beirut.

Lebanese authorities are seeking to raise taxes to help agree a deal on public sector pay rises, part of a wider effort led by Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri to approve the country’s first state budget in 12 years.

Lawmakers approved several tax hikes last week, the most prominent being a one percentage point increase in the sales tax.

Read: Lebanon protests over VAT rate hike

In the coming weeks, parliament still has to approve other increases, and the president must then sign off on all of them, before any of the new taxes take effect.

Various civil society groups and some leading political parties have called for people to take to the streets and protest against the taxes in recent days.

The Christian Kataeb party and the Progressive Socialist Party led by Druze politician Walid Jumblatt have staunchly opposed the new taxes. The Shia jihadist Hezbollah movement has also voiced reservations about some of the increases.

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