Lebanon Banks to Close Monday as Protests Rage for 4th Straight Day
Lebanon's banks will remain closed on Monday due to nationwide protests, the Association of Banks in Lebanon announced on Sunday, according to the National News Agency.
The announcement was made as protests continued to erupt throughout the country for a fourth consecutive day since the government announced it was set to impose new taxes on the people.
This prompted spontaneous unprecedented rallies across the multifactional country against the government and ruling class over its corruption.
The finance minister said late on Saturday that no new taxes will be imposed on the people. The news did little to stem the rallies with demonstrators flocking on Sunday to the downtown Beirut’s Riad al-Solh square.
Despite some light rainfall, the people continued their march on the government headquarters at the square, demanding the resignation of the cabinet and an overhaul of the country’s political system. They have vented their anger at President Michel Aoun, his son-in-law Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Rallies also continued unabated throughout the country.
The protesters chanted angry slogans against a political elite they blame for entrenched cronyism and driving the country to the economic brink. Many complained over corruption, mismanagement of funds and a failure to address high unemployment.
No leader, Christian or Muslim, was spared protesters’ ire, creating a rare unity in a country riven by sectarianism.
Hariri gave his government partners a 72-hour deadline on Friday to agree on reforms that could ward off economic crisis, hinting he may otherwise resign.
Late on Saturday, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea declared the resignation of the party’s four ministers from cabinet, citing the government’s inability to salvage the situation.
More than a quarter of the Lebanese population lives below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.
Many of the country's senior politicians came to prominence during the country's 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990. Many of its most influential figures are warlords.
Promised austerity moves are essential if Lebanon is to unlock $11 billion in economic assistance pledged by international donors last year.
Growth has plummeted in recent years, with political deadlock compounded by the impact of eight years of war in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon's public debt stands at around $86 billion -- more than 150 percent of gross domestic product -- according to the finance ministry.