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 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.
- 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.