October 21, 2019 / 5:49 AM / 25 days ago

Lebanon PM Hariri agrees reform package in bid to resolve economic crisis -official sources tell Reuters

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri speaks during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon October 18, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has agreed a package of reforms with government partners to ease an economic crisis that has sparked nationwide protests, official sources told Reuters, with a cabinet meeting expected on Monday to approve them.

Hariri, who is leading a coalition government mired by sectarian and political rivalries, gave his feuding government partners a 72-hour deadline on Friday to agree reforms that could ward off crisis, hinting he may otherwise resign.

The decisions call for a 50% reduction in the salaries of current and former officials and $3.3 billion in contributions from banks to achieve a “near zero deficit” for the 2020 budget.

It also includes a plan to privatise its telecommunications sector and an overhaul to its crippled electricity sector, a crucial demand among potential foreign donors and investors needed to unlock some $11 billion in funds to Lebanon.

The sources said the budget would not include any additional taxes or fees amid widespread unrest that were triggered in part by a decision last week to put a levy on WhatsApp calls.

The reforms also called for establishing new regulatory and transparency bodies within a “short period” of time to oversee reform plans. Central to protester demands is an end to what they say is rampant corruption destroying the economy.

Reporting by Samia Nakhoul and Laila Bassam; Editing by Eric Knecht

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