- Title: Lebanon approves reform package in bid to ease protester rage
- Date: 21st October 2019
- Summary: BEIRUT, LEBANON (OCTOBER 21, 2019) (REUTERS) PROTESTS OUTSIDE GOVERNMENT HEADQUARTERS IN BEIRUT
- Embargoed: 4th November 2019 14:03
- Keywords: Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri approves budget Lebanon protesters deficit-reduction
- Location: BEIRUT AND BAABDA, LEBANON
- City: BEIRUT AND BAABDA, LEBANON
- Country: Lebanon
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA003B21IUKN
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Lebanon's cabinet approved a reform package on Monday (October 21) that includes halving ministers' wages among other reforms in a bid to ease an economic crisis and defuse the biggest protests against the ruling elite in decades.
Under pressure, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and top officials gave the final approval to a package of steps drew up over the weekend, some seen as vital to reviving confidence which may alleviate strains in Lebanon's financial system.
The reforms passed after a debate held at a cabinet meeting that President Michel Aoun chaired at the Baabda palace on Monday.
Meanwhile, in central Beirut, people spent another day in the streets, with soldiers barricading the paths to parliament.
Hariri, who leads a coalition mired in sectarian and political rivalries, gave his cabinet a 72-hour deadline on Friday (October 18) to agree reform plans, hinting he might otherwise resign. The deadline expires on Monday evening.
The package includes a 50% cut in the salaries of current and former presidents, ministers and lawmakers, and benefit cuts for state institutions and officials, said Hariri during a news conference.
It further provides for the central bank and private banks to contribute $3.3 billion to achieve a "near zero deficit" for the 2020 budget.
The government plans to privatize the telecommunications sector and overhaul the costly and crumbling electricity sector, both major strains on Lebanon's finances.
Protesters have said this would not be enough to send them home, demanding the end of a political elite they accuse of rampant corruption.
(Production: Ayat Basma, Chiara Rodriquez)
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