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Beirut tax protest turns angry

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters
Beirut tax protest turns angry

There have been scuffles in Beirut after thousands gathered for a fourth day to protest against planned tax increases.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s car was pelted with water bottles as the demonstration turned angry.

Protesters broke through a security barrier, then lobbed missiles at police.

They are angry about plans for tax increases that they say would impact on the least well-off.

What prompted the protest?

Thousands of people marched through Beirut to protest against a broad tax hike they say unfairly targets the less affluent sectors of the country’s population.

It is reportedly the fourth consecutive day of protests.

Lebanese authorities are seeking to raise taxes to help agree a deal on public sector pay rises. It is part of a wider effort led by Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to approve the country’s first state budget in 12 years.

Lawmakers approved several tax hikes last week, the most prominent being a one percentage point increase in sales tax.

Why are the protestors angry?

They say the government has squandered public money through shady public-private contracts and should instead plug the budget deficit by tackling corruption.

There have been calls from several civil society groups and some leading political parties in recent days for people to take to the streets and protest against the tax plans.

What is the next step?

Parliament has to approve other increases over the coming weeks.

The president must then sign off on all of them, before any of the new taxes take effect.