Hariri, Khalil Optimistic Wage Scale to be Passed Tuesday as Gemayel Warns against Tax Hike

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Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil on Monday expressed optimism that the new wage scale for civil servants and the armed forces will be approved in Tuesday's legislative session, as Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel warned against a proposed tax hike that “will harm all social classes.”

“We can say that we've reached the final stages of an agreement on the wage scale and we will go to parliament tomorrow to discuss it positively and we will reach a result,” said Khalil after a ministerial-parliamentary meeting that was chaired by Hariri.

“If we take into consideration the atmosphere during today's meeting and the stances of the various blocs, I'm very optimistic that the wage scale will be approved,” Khalil added.

Hariri for his part said that “God willing, the new wage scale will be approved tomorrow.”

Lebanese Forces deputy head MP George Adwan meanwhile announced that the “meeting's atmosphere was positive” and that “there is an inclination to pass the wage scale.”

Asked about the proposed taxes, Adwan confirmed that new taxes will be slapped on banks and seaside properties as part of a plan to fund the new wage scale.

Kataeb chief Gemayel meanwhile held a press conference to warn that “the taxes draft decree has returned to the agenda of tomorrow's legislative session.”

“On March 15, there was a vote on a number of taxes but, together with the people, we managed to force their cancellation. And on March 16, they waged a defamation campaign against Kataeb... while on March 18 the ruling parties disavowed the taxes,” Gemayel said.

“There are 15 taxes that harm all social classes on the agenda of tomorrow's legislative session,” Gemayel warned.

He noted that only basic commodities exempted from VAT would not be affected by Tuesday's proposed tax hike.

“All items that we buy from supermarkets will witness an increase in price,” Gemayel cautioned.

Instead of hiking taxes, authorities should “fund the wage scale from the banks' extraordinary profits which amount to $800 million,” Kataeb's chief added, while also calling for an end to the waste and theft of public money.

“Putting an end to only 20% of tax evasion would secure the funds needed to finance the wage scale,” Gemayel noted.

“Do not put a burden on people because they cannot withstand further strains,” he warned.

Kataeb's student and youth department meanwhile called for an anti-tax demo outside parliament at 5:00 pm Tuesday.

The Syndical Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, has been pushing for the approval of the new wage scale for several years now and has organized numerous street protests and strikes to this end. The members of the armed forces would also benefit from the new wage scale.

The ruling class argues that hiking taxes is necessary to fund the wage hike but opponents of such a move have called on authorities to find alternative funding sources.