Demonstrators block the main roads in Beirut

On Monday, the demonstrators blocked the main road leading to Beirut from the north of the country, a number of main roads in the Lebanese capital were barricaded with tires and garbage cans, one of the participants in anti-government protests reported.

“The highway and the sea road from Beirut to the north is blocked, roads in Beirut are blocked too. Activists set fire to garbage cans and tires. They install barricades from improvised means”, – the agency’s source said.

A general strike is taking place across the country. All banks, government agencies, schools, universities and large stores are closed.

Mass protests began in Lebanon on Thursday. On Friday evening, additional army forces were brought into Beirut. The military used rubber bullets to disperse the demonstrators in the city center. Police officers used tear gas and water cannons to disperse activists.

The protests were triggered by the decision done by the Lebanese cabinet of ministers, which had previously approved the introduction of a tax on the use of Internet chat applications such as WhatsApp ($ 6 per month), as well as a tax on tobacco products (about $ 1.3 per import pack, $ 0.5 per local ) It is also planned to increase VAT to 15% by 2022.

Lebanese Communications Minister Muhammad Shukeyr announced the abolition of the “WhatsApp tax” on Friday night, but the protests did not stop. The Lebanese Prime Minister gave the government 72 hours to propose a plan for overcoming the crisis. On Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister and three ministers, members of the Lebanese Forces Christian Party, resigned.

On Sunday, the Lebanese Prime Minister discussed with the political forces of the country a program of emergency economic measures, including a 50% reduction in salaries for current and former ministers and deputies in order to bring about an end to mass anti-government protests.

Among other measures that Lebanese politicians are discussing to reduce government spending are the abolition of a number of ministries and state commissions, in particular the Information Ministry.

The program also includes “the abolition of all types of increases in VAT, taxes on communications services and public services, the abolition of bank secrecy in relation to deputies, ministers and government officials, the privatization of the telecommunications sector and the adoption of the law on the return of stolen funds”.