Beirut - Lebanon’s embattled prime minister sought international support Tuesday for a sweeping economic reform package announced a day earlier, which was intended to pacify massive protests calling for his government to resign.
Sa’ad Hariri hopes the reform package will increase foreign investments and help Lebanon’s struggling economy. But the nationwide demonstrations only grew larger Monday after the reforms were announced, with protesters dismissing them as more of the same “empty promises” seen in past decades that never materialised.
Lebanon’s biggest demonstrations in 15 years have unifyied an often-divided public in their revolt against status-quo leaders, who have ruled for three decades and brought the economy to the brink of disaster. Rampant corruption has also hollowed out the country’s infrastructure and basic services.
In downtown Beirut, thousands of protesters were digging for a sixth day of demonstrations, insisting Hariri’s government resign. Scores of other protesters held a sit-in outside the central bank, while protests on other cities and town continued as well.
Hariri held meetings Tuesday with western and Arab ambassadors to explain the reform package.
The Cabinet approved the 2020 budget with a 0.63 per cent deficit on Monday. The government also approved a series of reforms that would cut the budget deficit, with the central bank and the banking sector helping to reduce the deficit by about $3.4 billion next year.