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Lebanon: Tax Hike, Corruption Spark Popular Anger | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Makari adjourns parliament’s legislative session on Thursday/ NNA

Beirut- A salary scale requested by Lebanon’s civil servants and public school teachers turned on Thursday from being a positive development to a curse that would damage the middle and poor classes, including public sector employees.

Late on Thursday, angry protestors rushed to the streets of Beirut to oppose a decision enforced following a series of legislative sessions held since Wednesday in Parliament and which introduced new taxes to finance a salary scale worth $800 million.

Behind those protests stand the public education sector and several syndicates that warned the government from the tax hikes, and threatened to stage open-ended sit-ins and take other escalatory measures.

Since Wednesday, MPs have been holding meetings to approve several tax bills, including a one percent increase in the Value Added Tax (TVA) that currently stands at 10 percent.

As an objection, several invitations were posted on the social media to attend popular demonstrations planned for next Saturday and Sunday. Those demonstrations will call on financing the scale salary by fighting corruption and the misuse of Lebanon’s funds instead of taking the money from people’s pockets.

On Thursday, the tax hike was passed during a morning legislative session. Another session scheduled in the afternoon was expected to approve the salary scale. However, Deputy House Speaker Farid Makari decided to adjourn it to a date that would be specified later by Speaker Nabih Berri.

“The session was adjourned due to lack of quorum,” Makari said, holding several parties, notably MP Sami Gemayel and his Kataeb Party, responsible for circumventing and abolishing the salary scale, without offering a realistic alternative, and without taking any serious action.

Gemayel responded to the accusations, saying: “We have nothing to do with those rumors.”

The head of the Kataeb Party added: “We are four deputies, how can we break the quorum?”

The lawmaker called for better monitoring of state institutions. “It appears easier for them to remove from citizens’ pockets rather than putting an end to waste and corruption,” he said.

But member of the Future parliamentary bloc MP Ammar Houri told Asharq Al-Awsat : “It is impossible to pass the salary scale without looking for funds to finance it.”

Houri added: “The alternative for those tax hikes would be the annulment of the salary scale.”