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Thousands protest in Lebanon against proposed tax increase

Protest against tax and corruption in Lebanon on 19 March 2017 [Ratib Al Safadi/Anadolu]
Protest against tax and corruption in Lebanon on 19 March 2017 [Ratib Al Safadi/Anadolu]

Thousands of Lebanese protested on Sunday in the capital, Beirut, against the imposition of new taxes considered by parliament to fund public sector pay rises.

The Lebanese News Agency said protesters gathered in Riad Solh Square in central Beirut and called on the government “to tackle corruption and search for the causes of the squander of public money”.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri visited the nearby Grand Serail Arena amid tight security measures and spoke to the protesters saying, “the road will be long … and we will be by your side and will fight corruption.” However, the protesters shouted “thief” and threw plastic bottles at the premier, who left soon after.

Later, Hariri in a tweet called on the protesters to “form a committee to raise their demands and discuss them positively”.

Lebanese lawmakers have approved five new taxes including an increase in VAT from 10 per cent to 11 per cent.

According to government data, the public sector employs more than 270,000 employees, equivalent to about 20 per cent of the country’s labour force in Lebanon.

The Lebanese economy is currently under considerable financial strain with a public debt that amounts to more than $62 billion.

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