Lebanon: Hariri Promises Sweeping Economic Reforms
Lebanon's Cabinet 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 Hariri's government to resign.
Hariri told reporters after an emergency government meeting Monday that Cabinet approved the 2020 budget with a deficit of 0.6% 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.
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."
Protesters have closed major roads around Lebanon ahead of an emergency Cabinet meeting to discuss a rescue plan for the country's crumbling economy.
On Monday morning, 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.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri will put forward a reform plan during the morning government meeting at the presidential palace in Beirut's southeastern suburb of Baabda.
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.