Lebanese losing faith as politicians fumble over economy
Added 07-19-19 02:22:01am EST - “For days, Lebanese TV stations have been blanketed with live coverage as lawmakers held heated debate over a controversial austerity budget meant to salvage the flailing economy, with protests outside parliament and critics denouncing…” - Washingtontimes.com
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BEIRUT (AP) - For days, Lebanese TV stations have been blanketed with live coverage as lawmakers held heated debate over a controversial austerity budget meant to salvage the flailing economy, with protests outside parliament and critics denouncing its focus on tax hikes and wage cuts. Mohammed Badran, sitting in his barber shop empty of customers, couldn’t be bothered to watch.
Those officials don’t even know how much bread costs, he scoffed. “They basically don’t know anything about us.” The 33-year-old hair stylist - his hair spiked stylishly in front - sat idle in his salon in central Beirut with the TV tuned to Quranic recitals.
Badran said things have gotten worse the past four years. Taxes, utility bills and prices have increased, while his income hasn’t changed. Once, he kept about three quarters of his earnings; now he pockets only about a quarter, he said.
As the economic crisis deepens in Lebanon, so has the public’s distrust in the ability of the old political class, widely viewed as corrupt and steeped in personal rivalries, to tackle major reform. Many fear a Greek-style bankruptcy, without the European Union to fall back on and with potentially more violent social unrest in the small country wedged between war-torn Syria and Israel.
A new budget that reduces public debts, improves governance and reforms infrastructure could unlock some $11 billion in aid promised to Lebanon last year by European countries. But after weeks of delay amid haggling among the government and lawmakers, the result is a bill that mostly taps into the pockets of average Lebanese, while critics say it does little to tackle structural issues and deeply entrenched corruption at the root of the crisis.
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