BEIRUT, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of people took to the streets on Thursday evening in the capital Beirut to protest against new taxes that may be imposed by the Lebanese government in its 2020 state budget, Al Jadeed TV Channel reported.
Protesters blocked roads and called on the government to resign, accusing it of adopting no serious measures to slash the budget deficit and curb the alarmingly high-level public debt.
Earlier in the day, the government discussed the 2020 state budget while exploring the possibility of imposing taxes on oil commodities, tobacco, and luxurious items in addition to imposing a daily fee on WhatsApp users and increasing the Value Added Tax.
This fuelled a wave of anger among citizens as Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil had promised that the new budget would not include new taxes.
Moreover, some political parties such as Lebanese Forces and Hezbollah announced that they won't accept a budget that would include taxes.
Economists have on many occasions called upon the government to take serious structural measures before resorting to new taxes.
Serious measures must include fighting against tax and customs evasion, protecting borders against the smuggling of products, improving fees collection including electricity bills and mechanic fees, fully implementing anti-smoking and road safety laws which incur heavy penalties on violators, as well as the protection of intellectual property rights.
The cabinet must send the draft budget to the parliament by Monday which will discuss and vote on it within a constitutional time limit.
Endorsing the 2020 state budget is one of the reform measures that need to be taken by the cabinet in a bid to obtain the 11 billion U.S. dollars in loans and donations pledged at CEDRE conference held in Paris last year.