Massive protests continue across Lebanon for major changes
Publish- October 20, 2019, 10:15 AM
UNB NEWS - UNB NEWS
Sanitary workers clean the road after a night of demonstration in Lebanon's northern city Tripoli, Oct. 19, 2019. Photo: Xinhua
Beirut, Oct 20 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Nationwide demonstrations continued in Lebanon for the third consecutive day calling for major changes in the country's political system, Al Jadeed local TV channel reported.
Over a million protesters took to the streets on Saturday, vowing to keep their demonstrations until the political system is changed, and calling for early parliamentary elections.
Demonstrators blocked roads and burned tires, chanting slogans.
"This time, it is going to be different. We are optimistic that we will be able to reach our goals," one protester said.
Protesters said that the government had adopted policies that led to the deteriorating situation in the country.
Nationwide protests started on Thursday in Lebanon fueled by the government's suggested plans to impose new taxes on citizens.
The government is trying to pass the 2020 state budget by adopting austerity measures in a bid to reduce the budget deficit which has reached 11.4 percent of the GDP.
Endorsing the 2020 state budget is one of the conditions imposed by CEDRE conference to unlock the fund of 11 billion U.S. dollars for Lebanon.
However, Lebanese authorities have shown incapacity to adopt serious measures while resorting to new taxes on citizens.
Also, in the last 30 years, successive governments did not opt for serious plans and strategies that would increase the treasury's revenues while reducing its expenses which led to a hike in public debt to an alarming level.
Citizens insisted that they should not be the one to pay for the government's failing policies.
Local people said serious reform measures by the government must include fighting against tax and customs evasion, protecting borders against the smuggling of products, improving fees collection, and fully implementing anti-smoking and road safety laws which incur heavy penalties on violators.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri gave a speech on Friday following protesters' insistence on his resignation, saying that he has been trying to make the necessary reforms to save the country but other political parties have not been helpful in this regard.
Hariri gave political parties 72 hours to find a solution for the country's crisis, and said that he will choose "a different approach" if he does not get a clear answer from the cabinet.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah Leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah announced on Saturday that his party does not support the resignation of the current government.
"We do not support the resignation of the current government and new elections will lead to the same current parliament, so we should not waste time on these proposals," Nasrallah said.
He also called upon the government to adopt a new agenda noting that the Lebanese people can no longer bear new taxes.
On the other hand, Hariri met with representatives of different political parties on Saturday, trying to find a solution to the current crisis.
Following his meeting with Hariri, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil announced that there will be no new taxes on Lebanese citizens in the 2020 state budget, and banks will help with solving the current crisis.
Moreover, President Michel Aoun promised that the government will find a reassuring solution to the crisis.
However, officials' various announcements did not succeed in defusing people's anger who pledged to stay in the streets until they see a complete change in the country.
The three days of protests ruined the capital's downtown streets after a night of clashes between riot police and demonstrators.
In Downtown Beirut, many stores' windows were smashed.
Foreign embassies in Lebanon have, as a result, called upon their citizens to remain safe while some countries issued travel warnings against Lebanon.
For its part, Saudi Arabia has evacuated 260 Saudi citizens from Lebanon.