Maronite patriarch backs protesters against high taxes and corruption
Card Al-Rahi stands with people already burdened by high tariffs and taxes. Action is needed to tackle 40 per cent unemployment. The government must deal with deficits and the causes of the economic crisis. Today’s cabinet meeting was cancelled. Scores of people are injured whilst two foreign workers die.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – The Lebanese people, already burdened by tariffs and unfair taxes, cannot afford more taxes. For the Maronite Patriarch Beshara Al-Rahi, it is the government's duty to tackle the causes of the economic crisis and the fiscal deficit that affects the country.
The head of the Maronite Church spoke this morning during a meeting with the Lebanese community in Benin, commenting the ongoing street protests that broke out last night.
"Let us raise our voice together with the protesters to oppose the introduction of additional taxes," he said.
Addressing the authorities directly, he added that it is time to stop the "looting" and the "waste" of public money, as well as "smuggling" via legal or illegal venues such as ports, airports, or customs offices.
In his attack, he noted that the country’s ruling class wants to "impose taxes on the poor" who constitute "over a third of the Lebanese people. Everyone knows that the unemployment rate is close to 40 per cent and that hunger and extreme poverty threaten many citizens."
Meanwhile, media have reported the first casualties in the protests that began yesterday triggered by the government’s proposal to impose a fee on using WhatsApp and Facebook to communicate, thus bypassing the national operator that reported losses of over 30 per cent.
Overnight, two foreign workers chocked to death from a fire that spread to a building near the protest in the capital Beirut. First responders are still trying to recover the bodies.
Dozens of people have been injured in clashes with police. Protesters have blocked several roads and set tyres on fire, shouting slogans against the government and the ruling class, whom they blame for the crisis.
In the face of growing discontent, the government scrapped today’s cabinet meeting, which was scheduled to approve the state budget.
The protests are the most impressive of recent years, confirming the gravity of the situation. Riot police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd, in vain.
The head of the Lebanese Red Cross announced that scores of people have been injured in clashes between police and demonstrators.
The growing protests are the result of years of crisis and chaos in the region, exacerbated by the war in Syria and the resulting wave of refugees, most of whom sought shelter in neighbouring countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey).
Lebanon has the third-highest debt in the world, standing at about US billion or 150 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).