Hundreds of protesters blocked streets and gathered in front of banks on Tuesday to go up against the implementation of austerity measures, which would cut salaries of government employees and pensions for retired Lebanese veterans.
Beshara al-Asmar, the head of the Lebanese General Labor Union, said via the news Asharq al-Awsat, “They are trying to blame us for the economic collapse.”
Tuesday was the date set for the cabinet to discuss the state budget, where austerity measures and spending reductions would be brought up, according to Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil.
As a result of these measures meant to reduce the economic deficit, many Lebanese retired veterans and security personnel will be significantly impacted. Naturally, they are enraged at the idea of losing their benefits.
As part of these sit-ins, many of these protesters have posted up in various locations across the country, including blocking the entrance to the Central Bank in Clemenceau. Others arrived at Riad al-Solh square in Beirut, where the Ministry of Finance is located.
“We reject a budget that treats small employees as scapegoats,” al-Asmar stated.
On the other hand, financial lawmakers have encountered the support of The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with Minister Khalil holding preliminary meetings with each group before the budget debate takes place on Tuesday.
In their statement, The World Bank and IMF praised the actions, saying that they “reflect transparency, clarity, and a responsible approach to this sensitive issue.”
Currently, the country’s deficit sits at an estimated $4.5 billion. In addition to salary cuts of governmental employees and officials, the austerity measures will include a public hiring freeze that will last three years.
Earlier in the month, Prime Minister Saad Hariri stated that Lebanon “must reduce public spending to avoid a crisis.”
No matter the political affiliation, these austerity measures are said to be like nothing Lebanon has ever seen before, and only time will tell what the outcome will be.