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Lebanon’s Hariri agrees to reforms amid nationwide protests over economic crisis

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri agreed on Sunday a package of reforms with government partners to ease an economic crisis that has sparked protests aimed at ousting a ruling elite seen as riddled with corruption and cronyism.

Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri

Officials told Reuters the agreement was reached as hundreds of thousands of protesters flooded the streets for a fourth day in the biggest show of dissent against the establishment in decades.

A sea of people, some waving Lebanese flags, called for a revolution in protests that resembled the 2011 Arab revolts that toppled four presidents.

Hariri, who is leading a coalition government mired by sectarian and political rivalries, gave his feuding government partners a 72-hour deadline on Friday to agree to reforms that could ward off the crisis, hinting he may otherwise resign.

Hariri accused his rivals of obstructing his reform measures that could unlock $11 billion in Western donor pledges and help avert economic collapse.

The reform decisions require a 50% reduction in salaries of current and former presidents, ministers and MPs plus cuts in benefits to state institutions and officials. It also obliges the central bank and private banks to contribute $3.3 billion to achieve a “near-zero deficit” for the 2020 budget.

It also includes a plan to privatize the telecommunications sector and an overhaul of the costly and crumbling electricity sector, which poses one of the biggest strains on the country’s depleted finances.

Government sources said Hariri’s cabinet would meet at midday on Monday at the presidential palace to approve the reform package.

Source: Reuters

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