Lebanon’s government has approved sweeping reforms that it hopes will appease hundreds of thousands of people who have been protesting for days, calling on Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s government to resign.
Hariri told reporters after an emergency government meeting Monday that the Lebanese cabinet approved the 2020 budget with a deficit of 0.6 per cent with no new taxes.
He said that the salaries of top officials, including legislators and members of parliament, will be cut in half as part of an economic reform package. Hariri added that the country’s central bank and the banking sector, which are flush with cash, will help in reducing the deficit by about $3.4 billion US.
The cabinet also approved abolishing several state institutions, including the Ministry of Information.
The government will also give millions of dollars to families living in poverty as well as $160 million as housing loans. Hariri described the measures as a “financial coup.”
Despite Hariri’s reform announcement, many protesters say they don’t trust any plan by the current government. They’ve called on the 30-member cabinet to resign and be replaced by a smaller one made up of technocrats instead of members of political factions.
On Monday morning, prior to the emergency cabinet meeting where the economic rescue plan for the country’s crumbling economy was announced, thousands of protesters closed major roads around Lebanon
Demonstrators placed barriers on major intersections in Beirut as well as other cities and towns, marking the fifth day of protests triggered by proposed new taxes.
Hundreds of thousands participated in Sunday’s mass protests that were the largest since 2005.