Parliament Hikes VAT, Other Taxes as Debate of Wage Scale Adjourned to Thursday

The parliament on Wednesday approved hiking the value-added tax (VAT) and other taxes as part of measures aimed at funding the long-stalled new wage scale.

The VAT was raised from 10 to 11% as other taxes on financial transactions were also hiked, state-run National News Agency reported.

The Kataeb bloc rejected the VAT hike as Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel warned that “failure to tackle corruption and instead targeting citizens’ pockets will lead to bankrupting the state, destroying the economy and impoverishing the Lebanese.”

He had earlier warned that a “revolution” might erupt in the country should parliament approve new taxes to fund the wage scale.

The legislative session was later adjourned to Thursday after five tax-related items were approved, LBCI television said.

Al-Jadeed TV said an LBP 6,000 tax on the production of each ton of cement was approved amid the objections of the Democratic Gathering and al-Mustaqbal blocs.

Parliamentary sources told MTV that “the wage scale will not be approved tomorrow and the debate needs more time and maybe a session will be held next week.”

Several MPs including George Adwan, Akram Shehayyeb, Elie Aoun and Robert Ghanem had demanded that the revenues be separated from the wage scale and that they be included in the state budget that the government is drafting, LBCI said.

The legislative session had kicked off at noon amid protests outside the parliament building by the secondary, elementary and technical school teachers who are seeking to press lawmakers into approving a “fair” salary scale.

Deputy Speaker Farid Makari chaired the meeting instead of Speaker Nabih Berri because of family reasons.

The parliament was set to discuss 26 items on its agenda amid mounting doubts about approving the wage scale due to various demands from the economic bodies and public sector teachers.

Before the session began, MP Emile Rahmeh said: “Approving the wage scale is the people’s right. We must fight corruption to be able to fund it.”

He stressed the need to approve a wage scale that meets the approval of teachers, judges and the military.

For his part, MP Serge Torsarkissian announced that he would propose the cancellation of a tax, known as R8, that targets multiple job employees.

Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan said: “Failure to approve the salary scale is shameful. The potentials are available if we stop wasting money.”

In parallel with the parliament session, secondary, elementary and technical school teachers held a protest in Riad al-Solh Square objecting against what they described as “unfair scale for their employment positions.”

Lebanon’s economic bodies have also held an “emergency” meeting Tuesday evening, on the eve of the parliament session, and announced their total refusal of imposing taxes to finance the salary scale, warning of “disastrous repercussions on the overall economic situation, which is suffering primarily from recession.”

They also pointed out that the damage will affect the working class and low-income earners.