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'We Won't Pay' Campaign in Lebanon to Boycott Taxes

'We Won't Pay' Campaign in Lebanon to Boycott Taxes

Wednesday, 22 January, 2020 - 10:45
Lebanese protesters during anti government rally. (File photo: Reuters)
Beirut - Hanan Hamdan
“No street lights, broken roads, floods, and constant roadworks. Why would I pay my mechanic fees”? said Mohammad Terro, one of the people who have announced their will to boycott paying due taxes and fees in light of services' deterioration. The decision was taken by many other Lebanese citizens, leading to a record high recession in government revenues.

Mohammad’s position is confronted by Hussein Taleb, who fears being prosecuted by the Internal Security Forces, getting his car detained and embarrassing himself in public if he were to refrain from paying.

The controversy came as the "We Won't Pay" campaign, which kicked off last December, included mechanic fees as an escalation for the next phase. Although the majority of the Lebanese people affirm the importance and legitimacy of the campaign, however, many fear that extending its framework to include municipal and mechanic fees could harm citizens.

Terro says: “If everybody refrained from paying, they could not penalize us”, while Darine wonders, “Why are people afraid? Every once in a while, there is an exemption for mechanic fees' penalties. In the past, many refrained, and now there’s more reason to do so”. Her colleague, Mira, agrees on the basis that “we should not fund corruption”.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Lawyer and activist in the campaign Ali Abbas said: “The third phase of pressure includes municipalities and mechanic fees, noting that even in the past there were penalty exemptions for those who had late dues. As for municipalities, there is also a possibility to pay dues in installments over many years, and therefore people can resume paying what they owe without any penalties”. 

Abbas noted: “In the first phase of the campaign we started by not paying the electricity bill, after that came the loans, and since there are no negative implications for accumulating water and electricity bills, with only a small penalty incurred, it is also possible to pay them in installments”.

As for loans, Abbas said: "it is a form of pressure to reschedule all loans and to assist those who are unable to pay, and there are many of them.”

He also pointed out that: "Many people were, in the first place, unable to pay their bank loans as a result of the circumstances the country is going through, so we took advantage of this situation to exert pressure by increasing the number of people who are not paying and by calling on those capable of paying to wait until loans are rescheduled."

Addressing people’s fears, Abbas said that the “period for paying mechanic fees has been extended to the end of March, and therefore nobody will be detained until then”.

The campaign has found wide interaction among the Lebanese, especially given the difficult financial circumstances that the country is going through and the deterioration in living conditions. This represents one of the pressure tools that people have resorted to in order to confront the indifference of the political class towards their demands and calls for change. 

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