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Protests against Austerity Policies Besiege Lebanon’s Govt.

Protests against Austerity Policies Besiege Lebanon’s Govt.

Tuesday, 30 April, 2019 - 06:00
Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil. (Dalati & Nohra)
Beirut - Caroline Akoum
Starting Tuesday, Lebanon’s government is set to face a series of workers’ protests against any possible wage cuts and decrease of their end-of-service benefits.

Officials have been mulling such proposals as a way to reduce the budget deficit.

On Tuesday, the cabinet will launch meetings to discuss the 2019 state budget prepared by Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, who previously stated that it would include austerity measures and reductions in spending.

Head of the Lebanese General Labor Union Beshara al-Asmar said the union plans to hold a series of meetings to address the draft budget.

“They are trying to blame us for the economic collapse,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat. “We will take to the streets should we reach a dead end.”

Asmar added that the union will reject a budget that does not tackle tax evasion, corruption and violations against marine properties.

“We reject a budget that treats small employees as scapegoats,” he said.

On early Tuesday morning, veterans of the Lebanese armed forces held a series of sit-ins and protests against planned cuts of their benefits.

Ahead of Tuesday’s debate on the state budget draft, Khalil held separate meetings on Monday with the World Bank team headed by Regional Director, Saroj Kumar Jha, and International Monetary Fund (IMF) official in Lebanon, Najla Nakhleh.

The National News Agency said that discussions focused on the annual budget, corrective measures and financial figures based on the existing data, in addition to ways of reaching a balanced budget that includes practical reform steps.

The World Bank and IMF delegations commended these measures, "which reflect transparency, clarity and a responsible approach to this sensitive issue."

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