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Lebanese Minister Says Final Budget Agreed with No New Taxes

Lebanese Minister Says Final Budget Agreed with No New Taxes

Saturday, 19 October, 2019 - 17:45
Lebanese demonstrators wave the national flag during a protest against dire economic conditions in downtown Beirut on October 18, 2019. (Getty Images)

Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said on Saturday following a meeting with Prime Minister Saad Hariri that they had agreed on a final budget that did not include any additional taxes or fees in a bid to appease nationwide protests.

President Michel Aoun said in a tweet that there would be a "reassuring solution" to the economic crisis.

The announcement was made as thousands of demonstrators poured into Lebanon’s streets on Saturday for a third day of anti-government protests, directing growing rage at a political elite they blame for driving the country to the economic brink.

The latest unrest erupted out of anger over the rising cost of living and new tax plans, including a fee on WhatsApp calls, which was quickly retracted after protests - the biggest in decades - broke out.

Hariri gave his government partners a 72-hour deadline on Friday to agree on reforms that could ward off economic crisis, hinting he may otherwise resign.

Government sources revealed that the cabinet would meet on Sunday to discuss ways to resolve the crisis, reported Reuters.

From the south to the east and north of Lebanon, protesters marched, blocked roads, burned tires to keep the momentum going despite gunmen loyal to the Amal movement, headed by parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, appearing with heavy guns to scare them away.

Amal militiamen attacked peaceful demonstrators who tore his posters and chanted slogans denouncing him as corrupt. They prevented TV crews from filming the protests.

“This country is moving toward total collapse. This regime has failed to lead Lebanon and it must be toppled and replaced,” said Mohammad Awada, 32, who is unemployed.

In the southern port city of Tyre protesters filled the streets.

“I am taking part because over the last 30 years warlords have been ruling us. I am about to be 30 and my parents still tell me tomorrow will be better. I am not seeing better days ahead,” said Sylvia Yaqoub, 29, a laboratory manager.

“We want back the money they stole because 30 families are ruling five million people. We won’t accept this any longer,” she told Reuters.

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