Downtown, Beirut has been recently eventful as thousands of protesters gathered around the Parliament in Riad El Solh to protest against the planned tax increases. The atmosphere was heated as thousands of Lebanese citizens marched through Beirut to express their discontent with regards to the plans for sales tax increase and to prevent an outcome that would ultimately affect the less affluent population’s ability to live a dignified life. Though this is the fourth march since the Lebanese authorities started seeking to increase taxes in order to agree on a deal for public sector pay raises, most of the Lebanese population was fighting for their economic well-being and rights.
As citizens of the world and dignified human persons, it is our right to be worthy of respect from our government. Though there are people who can afford to pay the differences in taxes, there are many others whose lives are affected by this minor adjustment. Should the new VAT tax increase be implemented, Lebanon’s poverty would increase and its middle class would deteriorate. Similarly, stakeholders include Syrian refugees and other foreigners struggling to meet their basic needs for survival on a daily basis. Lebanon already struggles with its economy, which is heavily dependent on the tourism and services sectors. This being said, an increase in prices include health, education, foods, alcohol, and endless other commodities and services.
Since 2005, the Lebanese Parliament hasn’t sanctioned a national budget until recently. It is not unusual that the protesters are furious considering that the government has wasted public money through suspicious deals, which activists believe the government should stop by tackling corruption instead. Protesters conclude that the government’s greediness gives nothing back to its people and this fuel of rage is an invasion of their right to live a dignified life. However, since the taxes have not yet been implemented, some Lebanese vendors have already raised their prices on goods. Their invalid excuse of the current “tax raise”, allows them to hypocritically rip off their customers in turn, which is unfair, unacceptable and further encourages corruption in Lebanese society.
According to the World Bank, about 30% of the Lebanese population that make up the poverty class live on approximately $2500 annually, less than $5 a day. When the impoverished Lebanese citizens already face the challenge of their inability to meet their basic food needs, how are they able to meet tax increases without having their ability to live a dignified life abruptly ended? When the people’s rights, derived from the dignity of the human person, are attacked, people become angry and discordant.
The protesters that gathered in Beirut that weekend share the characteristics of fighting for their right to live a dignified life. During those 12 years, Lebanon has faced many challenges including a refugee crisis that has overwhelmed the small state and yet its people are still coping with it. This random call of tax raise not only hurts people’s pockets but also their rights to live in a society that promotes their intrinsic and inviolable dignity. We the Lebanese people deserve to be treated equally for the betterment of humanity.
Written by Liana Baba, a WYAME volunteer from the Lebanese American University.