The Lebanese Parliament Thursday resumed salary scale discussions, with lawmakers expected to endorse the new salary hike for civil servants and public and private teachers.
"The salary scale will be approved and will be planned in the right way," Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil told local media.
Change and Reform Bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan justified the increased taxes, saying that they would provide the government with the ability to pay increased salaries. "How else will we fund the salary scale?"
The salary scale will impact thousands of public employees.
The cost of the bill that would offer public sector workers, including teachers, new salary packages is estimated at LL1.2 trillion ($800 million).
Deputy Speaker Farid Makari expressed hope ahead of the session that the "double standards adopted by MPs will come to an end. They are demanding the endorsement of the salary scale outside [the hall] and will stall the matter during the session."
Lawmakers went on a break at 1:30 p.m. and will resume talks at 5:00 p.m.
Change and Reform Bloc MP Alain Aoun responded to criticism over Parliament’s new taxes in remarks to reporters. The lawmaker said that MPs were "all against taxes, but how else will we fund it? Provide us with an alternative.”
The MP also hit back at criticism from the Kataeb Party, who have vocally opposed the measures taken to fund the scale.
“Since day one, there has been consensus that the salary hike needs funding- apart from the Kataeb,” he said, adding that "combating corruption is a nice slogan, but we have to be realistic.”
“The salary hike will impact 400,000 families; we are not doing this (imposing additional taxes) to squander public money... we will take responsibility for our decisions, even if they are not popular. “
Makari told reporters after the session that MPs only managed to approve three articles from 11:00 a.m. until 1.30 p.m., criticizing lawmakers for wasting time at the session.
"I dont want to name the lawmakers but they are delaying the approval of the salary scale," he said, blasting them for "repeating the same stances that were made during the meeting of the joint committees."
"We will not reach results this way."
Lawmakers approved during the session a proposal to add LL250 to the packs of cigarettes, LL250 to each pack of tobacco and LL500 to each box of cigars.
Makari threatened to adjourn the session until next Wednesday over the heated debate over imposing additional taxes on cigarettes, cigars and tobacco, but he backed down when MPs approved the bill.
Only 22 MPs opposed the bill, including the Development and Liberation bloc and Loyalty to the Resistance bloc.
The Parliament also approved substantial tax increases on imported spirits, wines and beer.
Wednesday’s Parliament session concluded with the approval of five new taxes and levies.
As MPs attended the session, permanent teachers at the Lebanese University held a protest in the nearby Riad al-Solh Square to demand that the Cabinet maintain their solidarity fund.
"This protest is a warning. We will take all the necessary escalatory measures to preserve our fund," the teachers said.
Civil servants and public and private school teachers have routinely protested for increased benefits and full employment.
The existing proposals for the salary scale has been objected by judges, who say they are at risk of losing benefits, including a solidarity fund, which pays twice their salary every other month.
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