Hariri to Lebanese: No need for protests
Written by Malek   

By dailystar.com.lb

BEIRUT: There's no need for protests over proposed taxes, as the government is looking for revenue to fund a wage hike for public employees, Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Monday. "All political blocs are seeking to resolve this crisis," Hariri told reporters after meeting with President Michel Aoun at Baabda Palace. He reiterated calls for protesters to form a new committee to convey their demands.

A few thousand Lebanese flocked to Beirut’s Riad al-Solh Square at noon on Sunday to protest Cabinet plans to impose a string of taxes to cover the cost of long-awaited salary increases for both civil servants and public school teachers estimated at $800 million. Sunday’s protest capped four days of street demonstrations staged by civil society activists and supporters of various political parties denouncing the proposed taxes and demanding action against rampant corruption and the theft of public money. Hariri said he and President Aoun were keen on combatting corruption and the squandering of public funds. "Our stance is clear. The government wants to restore the peoples' confidence," the premier said.

He stressed that the Cabinet cannot approve the salary scale without allocating the needed revenues. "Our taxes don't aim to target people, we added [taxes] on marine properties and financial companies to end the deficiency." During two sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, lawmakers discussed a host of taxes proposed by the Finance Ministry to cover the cost of the salary scale bill. Lawmakers approved an increase in the value added tax from 10 percent to 11 percent. However, the session was adjourned over lack of quorum as Deputy Speaker Farid Makari and Kataeb chief Sami Gemayel exchanged accusations over the matter.

Turning to the ongoing debate on the country's new electoral law, Hariri described talks on the vote law to govern the upcoming parliamentary elections as "positive." "We are approaching pressing deadlines but I am certain that we will have a new electoral law that represents all Lebanese," Hariri said. He said that he was "open" to discuss all proposed electoral draft laws, stressing that his political group "wasn't the obstacle." In addition to being premier, Hariri also heads the Future Movement.

The PM said that political parties were seeking to "garner the approval of all groups to any vote law, particularly [Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid] Jumblatt."

He said that Jumblatt wasn't against the adoption of a hybrid electoral law, hoping that an agreement would be reached soon.

Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk told reporters after talks with Aoun on Monday that an electoral law could be agreed on within a month.

Parliamentary elections were originally scheduled to take place between May 21 and June 21, yet political deadlock is expected to delay elections beyond June.

Rivals have struggled to agree on a new electoral law, where the debate is primarily between a new proportional electoral law and a hybrid law that combines it with the existing 1960 majority law.

Lebanon’s Parliament has extended its term twice since 2013.