Tax hike, stagnant wages spark protests in Beirut

BEIRUT (AP) — Demonstrators in downtown Beirut pelted Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s car with water bottles on Sunday as protests against new taxes and a stagnant public wage scale gained force in the city.

Hariri got out of his armored convoy behind the police line at the demonstration facing the government’s capital building but could get no closer as protesters began throwing water bottles and shouting “Thieves!”

Thousands of people came to the city center to protest a broad tax hike they say is unfairly targeting the country’s working classes.

The Lebanese government is paralyzed over a budget proposal that would hike over a dozen tax rates to fund a salary increase for teachers and civil servants.

Parliament approved some tax hikes on Wednesday.

Demonstrators in Beirut Sunday say the government has squandered public moneys through shady public-private contracts and should plug the budget deficit by addressing corruption instead.

The Lebanese Parliament has twice extended its own term over disagreements on how to hold elections. Polls are scheduled to take place in May, but top politicians are yet to give the green light.