A nationwide general strike has been called across Lebanon for Monday as protests, demanding an end to economic woes and perceived government corruption, are set to continue for a fifth day.
Protests have grown steadily across the country since people took to the streets on Thursday in response to a proposed tax on WhatsApp calls and other messaging services.
Here are the latest updates:
Monday, October 21
Cabinet approves reforms following five days of protests
Lebanon approved reforms and the 2020 budget following five days of protests, Prime Minister Hariri announced on Monday.
The reforms include cutting of politicians’ salaries by half.
Government agrees reforms, debating last point related to power sector
Lebanon’s cabinet is discussing a final issue related to the power sector in a list of reforms after agreeing to all the others, the president’s office said on Monday.
The government convened to approve a reform package, including halving ministers’ wages, in a bid to defuse the biggest protests against the country’s ruling elite in decades.
Power sector reform is one of the biggest issues the government is tackling.
Lebanon to cut ministers’ pay in bid to ease protester rage
Lebanon’s cabinet is expected to halve ministers’ wages among other reforms.
The package of moves includes a 50 percent cut in the salaries of current and former presidents, ministers and politicians, and benefit cuts for state institutions and officials, officials told Reuters news agency.
It further provides for the central bank and private banks to contribute $3.3bn to achieve a “near-zero deficit” for the 2020 budget.
Protesters have said this would not be enough to send them home, demanding the demise of politicians they accuse of rampant corruption.
Lebanon’s president decries protesters ‘generalising’ fraud accusations
President Michel Aoun said it was unfair to tarnish everyone with corruption allegations, adding that banking secrecy should be lifted from the accounts of current and future ministers.
“What is happening in the streets expresses people’s pain, but generalising corruption [charges] against everyone carries big injustice,” he said.
Lebanon has strict rules over bank account privacy that critics say makes the country susceptible to money laundering.
A chorus of voices, from union leaders to politicians, has joined calls for Prime Minister Hariri’s government to resign.
Volunteers clean streets after massive protest
Lebanese protesters are back on the streets, but this time to scoop up demonstration debris in downtown Beirut.
People responded to a general call on social media to clean up the streets and squares that were occupied by tens of thousands on Sunday night.
“This is not organised by organisations or NGOs, it was a personal initiative,” said volunteer Sandra Chaoul.
“Some people sent messages yesterday on Instagram asking people who want to volunteer to come at 8am and we answered the call.”
Protesters begin final countdown as 72-hour deadline comes to close
Protesters across Lebanon have been counting down the hours after Prime Minister Hariri gave his cabinet a 72-hour deadline on Friday to agree reform plans, hinting he might otherwise resign.
The deadline expires on Monday evening.
Lebanese president’s son-in-law joins protesters
Lebanese member of parliament and son-in-law of President Aoun, Shamil Roukoz, has joined demonstrators in Matn, a district in Mount Lebanon.
Videos published by Lebanese media showed Roukouz greeted with applause and carried on the shoulders of other protesters.
— حديث المدينة (@citytalksnews) October 21, 2019
President Aoun: Protests show ‘people’s pain’
Lebanon’s President Aoun said protests gripping the country showed “people’s pain” but that accusing all politicians of corruption equally was not fair.
Aoun added that the government must at least start by lifting banking secrecy from current and future ministers, his office said in a tweet.
“What is happening in the streets expresses people’s pain, but generalising corruption [charges] against everyone carries big injustice,” he said during a cabinet session.
Lebanon cabinet session begins at presidential palace
Lebanon’s cabinet has convened, headed by President Aoun at the Baabda Palace, as protests grip the country in the biggest show of dissent against the ruling elite in decades.
The government is expected to approve reforms including halving ministers’ wages in a bid to ease an economic crisis and defuse protests that have brought hundreds of thousands of people to the streets for four days.
Officials told Reuters news agency on Sunday that Prime Minister Saad Hariri had agreed to a package of reforms with his government partners to tackle the crisis that has driven hundreds of thousands of protesters into the streets.
Lebanon dollar bonds tumble as protests spread
Lebanon’s government bonds tumbled by one cent or more after fierce protests over the country’s economic crisis had spread on Sunday ahead of a cabinet meeting on speeding up reforms.
The sovereign’s 2025 issue tumbled 1.34 cents in the dollar to trade at 65.5 cents, Tradeweb data showed, taking the bond’s two-day losses to nearly four cents.
Four days of protests have been the biggest show of dissent in decades against the country’s ruling elite which is strained by claims of corruption and cronyism. On Sunday, PM Hariri agreed to a package of reforms with government partners.
(SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES)