Beirut – The Lebanese parliament approved on Monday a series of new taxes to fund the recently announced hike in salaries of public employees.
The majority of the taxes are the same ones included in a previous tax law that was rejected by the Constitutional Council.
The new bill includes a hike in the Value Added Tax, from 10 to 11 percent. Fees have been increased on alcoholic drinks, imported cigarettes, stamps and notary public transactions. New fees have been imposed on first class flight passengers, as well as private and economy class travelers. A very low fee of $3 was imposed on travelers arriving in Lebanon by land.
Opposition lawmakers slammed the new taxes, while Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil defended them, saying that their real purpose is to decrease the public debt.
Head of the Kataeb Party MP Sami Gemayel said that officials will use the newly generated funds “to finance their electoral campaigns from the pockets of the citizens.”
“They have nothing to do with the new wage scale, which is why we are opposing it,” he continued.
He added that he will study the possibility of appealing the law before the Constitutional Council.
Kataeb bloc MP Fadi al-Haber noted to Asharq Al-Awsat that the taxes “primarily target the poor people in Lebanon,” especially in regards to raising fees on stamps and land and mobile telephone lines.
If the tax law is appealed before the Constitutional Council, then the government and parliament will be faced with a confrontation with the General Labor Union and other unions that have threatened to stage open general strikes.
Haber said: “Funding the new salary scale can only take place through an ambitious economic plan that would restore growth in the country.”
“As long as the government lacks the ability to take sovereign decisions, then it will not be able to adopt an effective and productive plan because its voice has been usurped,” he added.
“It is therefore seeking to correct this economic and financial flaw by imposing taxes on he poor,” he lamented.
Mustaqbal bloc MP Ammar Houri said that appealing the law is possible if ten lawmakers sign the request.
He remarked however that, at the moment, financing the new salary scale is only possible through taxes, denying that the new bill mostly targets the poor.