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Wednesday 23 October 2019

The problem in Lebanon - SitRep

Saleem Zahid. 

The ongoing protests reveal a problem in Lebanon that has forced the country’s fledgling economy to a standstill and brought its economic situation once again onto the global forefront. Here is a quick round-up of the situation.

The Problems

  • The government is high in debt with its estimates at 155% of the GDP.
  • The economy is faltering.
  • Corruption is rampant and banks are accused of favoring only a the elite.
  • There is a severe shortage of basic services like electricity.

Demands by the Protesters

  • The protesters are asking an overhaul of the complete political system.
  • They are also asking the government to step down. 
  • High taxes are a huge source of contention. 
  • A tax on WhatsApp calls proved a catalyst to the protests since it is widely used by the masses and the tax caused their mobilization.

Actions by Protesters

  • Protesters are hitting the roads by the thousands to highlight the problem in Lebanon.
  • They have generally been peaceful so far. 
  • They blocked several important roads.
  • The army was called in to clear the roads but refused to confront the protesters or use force against them.
  • Protesters have carried out a general strike.

Display of Unity

  • The country that has in the past seen severe forms of internal divisions and sectarianism is now united over political and economic reforms.
  • The protesters hold only the national flag and not those of their political parties.
  • Many former supporters of political parties have called for their own leaders to step down.

Government’s Response

  • Prime Minister Saad Hariri has acknowledged the protestors’ demands, saying in a televised addressed that he hears them and has proposed a series of reforms.
  • Some new taxes, including the one on WhatsApp, have been scrapped.
  • A one time tax on banks has, however, been introduced against the accusations of undue advantages granted to them.
  • Some state institutions like the Ministry of Information have been abolished to cut government costs.
  • The plans for implementing an austerity budget have been dropped.
  • The salaries of politicians have been drastically reduced.
  • The protesters have so far been unfazed by these measures.
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