Protests have erupted across Lebanon in opposition to new tax and austerity measures imposed by the Lebanese Government.
The new tax announced by the Lebanese Government included a $0.20 (£0.16) daily charge on voice over internet protocol (VOIP), which is used by applications like Whats App and Facebook for voice messaging. The Government also discussed a hike in Value Added Tax (VAT) rates from 11 per cent to 15 per cent. Following the outbreak of the protests across Lebanon, the Government decided to annul what has since been dubbed the “Whats App tax” in order to prevent an escalation in the protests.
Nevertheless, protesters are calling for members of the current government to resign. The leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, has already called on the Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, to resign together. The Interior Minister, Raya el Hassan, has expressed concerns over the calls for resignations, which he believes will lead to the collapse of the Government.
Demonstrators have ended up clashing with the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF), among whom dozens have reportedly been injured. Protesters have also blocked off roads and caused disruptions on the streets.
This is not the first time this month that protests have broken out in Lebanon due to the deteriorating economic conditions. Demonstrations took place at the start of October where people came out to the streets to voice their concerns about the economy. There has been a sense of brewing frustration among the Lebanese people with regards to economic reforms, that have been extremely slow to be implemented and to bear any fruit.
Grievances have been prevalent since the parliamentary elections that took place in mid-2018, bringing back all the familiar faces to Lebanese politics. There is a continuous perception among the population that governmental officials are corrupt and that they political system poses structural problems for the flourishing of the national economy. These structural issues have led to the recurrence of protests in the country over the past few years.