Tags: ML | Lebanon | Protests

Protests Spread across Lebanon over Proposed New Taxes

Protests Spread across Lebanon over Proposed New Taxes

Thursday, 17 October 2019 06:37 PM

BEIRUT (AP) — Thousands of people protested in Beirut and other parts of Lebanon on Thursday, closing major roads with burning tires and garbage containers in anger over the government's plans to impose new taxes amid a severe economic crisis.

Hundreds gathered near the government headquarters and parliament building in central Beirut where riot police were deployed. The protesters chanted: "Revolution!" and "Thieves!" — the latter a reference to widespread corruption in a country that has one of the highest debt loads in the world.

Years of regional turmoil — worsened by an influx of 1.5 million Syrian refugees since 2011 — are catching up with the small Arab country. Lebanon has the third-highest debt level in the world, currently standing at about $86 billion, or 150% of its gross domestic product.

In streets around Beirut, protesters set tires and trash barrels and shut down major intersections, causing traffic jams.

"We refuse what's happening in Lebanon... The failure of our government to do at least the minimum ... has given us no other choice than to take the streets," said writer and director Lucien Bourjeily.

"They are putting more and more taxes on us even though we cannot take any more taxes," he said.

When the motorcade of Education Minister Akram Chehayeb padded through downtown Beirut, protesters punched and kicked the cars. One bodyguard jumped out of an SUV and fired an automatic rifle into the air. Chehayeb rushed out of his car and pushed the guard away and prevented him from shooting again. No one was hurt in the incident.

Protesters also closed roads in other parts of Lebanon, including the northern city of Tripoli, Tyre in the south and Baalbek in the northeast.

The government is discussing the 2020 budget, and new taxes have been proposed, including on tobacco, gasoline and some social media telecommunication software such as WhatsApp.

Telecommunications Minister Mohamed Choucair appeared on TV after the protests began and said Prime Minister Saad Hariri has asked him to drop the proposed tax on WhatsApp.

As protests continued, demonstrators clashed briefly with riot police outside the government headquarters, an Ottoman-era compound known as the Grand Serial.

"We have no jobs, we have money and we have no future," one protester screamed.

International donors have been demanding that Lebanon implement economic changes in order to get loans and grants pledged at the CEDRE economic conference in Paris in April 2018. International donors pledged $11 billion for Lebanon but they sought to ensure the money is well spent in the corruption-plagued country.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

   
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Thousands of people protested in Beirut and other parts of Lebanon on Thursday, closing major roads with burning tires and garbage containers in anger over the government's plans to impose new taxes amid a severe economic crisis.Hundreds gathered near the government...
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2019-37-17
Thursday, 17 October 2019 06:37 PM
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