Lebanon’s cabinet approved a raft of economic reforms and agreed on the 2020 budget, Prime Minister Saad Hariri said yesterday.
“These decisions are not designed as a trade-off. They are not to ask you to stop expressing your anger. That is your decision to make,” he said in a televised press conference.
The announcement comes amid a growing protest movement, which started five days ago over tax hikes but has evolved into an unprecedented push to remove Lebanon’s entire political leadership.
The reforms announced also include cutting of politicians’ salaries by half.
Protesters have said this would not be enough to send them home, demanding the demise of politicians they accuse of rampant corruption.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in central Beirut and other cities Sunday to demand better living conditions and the ouster of a cast of politicians who have monopolised power and influence for decades.
Euphoric crowds partied deep into the night, leaving all political and sectarian paraphernalia at home to gather under the national cedar flag, dancing to impromptu concerts and chanting often hilarious anti-establishment slogans.
Lebanon’s economy has been on the brink of collapse for some time and the initial grievances of the protesters were over proposed tax hikes.
But the demonstrations have evolved into a massive push to unseat ruling dynasties widely seen as corrupt beyond redemption, and Hariri’s 11th-hour rescue plan was met with disdain on the street.
At the press conference, Hariri said protests across country restored Lebanon national identity, broke sectarian barriers. He also supported protesters’ demand for early polls.