On Sunday, October 20, thousands of protesters took to the streets across Lebanon for a fourth consecutive day to denounce tax increases and alleged government corruption. The government is expected to approve a series of reforms on Monday, October 21, aimed at alleviating the ongoing economic crisis. The package calls for a reduction in the salaries of government officials, a plan to privatize the telecommunications sector, and a proposed overhaul of the electricity sector. Officials stated that no new taxes would be levied as part of the proposed reforms.
On Saturday, October 19, members of the Lebanese Forces, a Christian political party, stepped down from government, stating that the current coalition government was incapable of effectively responding to the demands of protesters. Demonstrators have called for the rest of government to resign.
Heightened security measures and transportation and business disruptions are to be expected in major urban centers over the coming days as protests continue. Clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
On October 16, the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products as part of its 2020 federal budget. Information Minister Jama Jarrah announced a 20 percent daily tax for individuals messaging via the WhatsApp mobile phone messenger application on October 17. However, the announcement sparked spontaneous protests on October 17, forcing the government to revoke the tax proposal. Protests were notably reported in Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli, Jounieh, Jbeil, and the Bekaa Valley.
Individuals in Lebanon, and particularly in Beirut, are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations as a precaution, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities.
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