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Lebanon premier agrees to reform package as deadlines approaches

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri has reportedly given the nod on a package of reforms with government partners in an attempt to tackle an economic crisis that has triggered nationwide protests in the recent past.

Official sources told Reuters on Sunday that a cabinet meeting would be held on Monday to approve the reforms.

The package urges a 50-percent reduction in the salaries of current and former officials and $3.3 billion in contributions from banks to achieve a “near zero deficit” for the 2020 budget.

It also includes a plan to privatize Lebanon’s telecommunications sector and an overhaul to its electricity sector, a crucial demand among potential foreign donors and investors needed to unlock some $11 billion in funds to Lebanon.

According to the sources, no additional taxes or fees would be included in the budget amid widespread unrest, which was triggered in part by a decision last week to put a levy on WhatsApp calls.

The measures also called for establishing new regulatory and transparency bodies within a “short period” of time to oversee reform plans.

The Lebanese prime minister on Friday gave a 72-hour ultimatum for “partners in the government” to go to great lengths to carry out “real reforms.”

Hariri warned that he would “have something else to say” if the obstruction of the reforms, covering areas such as the budget and the power sector, endured beyond the deadline.

The protesters are frustrated with rising inflation and living costs as the government struggles to attract revenue amid increasing economic hardships and a decreasing capital flow to Lebanon. They blame the faltering economy on widespread corruption and abuse of privileges among politicians.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, secretary general of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, on Saturday said he was against calls for the resignation of the government, vowing not to allow anyone to “burn” Lebanon and cause chaos in the country.

Nasrallah also stated that the Hezbollah party is “determined to work hard” to solve the country’s problems and “not allow anyone to drown this country and take it to the abyss”.