Lebanon: Mass revolt continues as Prime Minister "approves reforms"

Lebanon: Mass revolt continues as Prime Minister "approves reforms"


The Lebanese coalition government has reportedly accepted a package of economic reforms aimed at suppressing the biggest protests in years.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets on Sunday for a fourth day of anti-government protests.

The protests were triggered in part by a plan to tax calls on WhatsApp and other messaging services.

The government quickly removed the tax, but the protests turned into wider demands for reform.

The Lebanese economy is struggling with low growth and high debt. The austerity measures provoked anger and the deterioration of the infrastructure led to power cuts and piles of waste not collected on a daily basis.

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On Friday, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri granted 72 hours to his coalition partners to support economic reforms.

According to government sources quoted by news agencies, an agreement was reached Sunday.

The agreement would include plans to privatize essential public services, cut the salaries of politicians and take measures to address Lebanon's budget deficit.

The package of reforms is expected to be approved at a cabinet meeting on Monday.

Lebanon has long had a political system designed to balance power among the main religious groups in the country.

According to observers, one of the striking features of the demonstrations is the way in which the demonstrators shook the division of the country in order to unite against their leaders.
'I am disgusted'

Mass demonstrations erupted on Thursday, when the proposed tax on WhatsApp calls was announced.

When the tax was removed, protests focused on broader government claims of widespread corruption and economic mismanagement.

The spontaneous demonstrations, which affected the big cities, including Beirut, the capital, saw protesters sing for the "revolution".

With growing indebtedness, the Lebanese government is trying to implement economic reforms to get $ 11 billion (£ 8.5 billion) in aid from international donors.

Without economic reforms, Lebanon's debt is expected to reach more than 150 percent of GDP by the end of the year.

The economic crisis and its treatment by the Lebanese government triggered widespread anger as many people demanded political change.

"I'm here because our politicians disgust me, nothing works, it's not a state," Cherine Shawa told Reuters at a demonstration in Beirut on Sunday.

Hanan Takkouche, also in the capital, said: "We are here to say to the" exit "of our leaders."

The protests were largely peaceful, but dozens of people were reportedly injured in clashes with police during protests in recent days.


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