Protesters Rally in Riad al-Solh as Parliament Convenes

A legislative session set to mainly discuss the state budget and approve the thorny wage scale file convened in Nejmeh Square on Tuesday, as protesters rallied in Riad al-Solh in downtown Beirut demanding “fair” approval of the salary scale.

Speaker Nabih Berri stressed during the meeting that the wage scale must be approved, “it is the people’s right, it must be approved taking into account the state’s finances.”

Prime Minister Saad Hariri remarked: “It is our right to preserve the state’s finances. I will not approve the wage scale without sources to fund it,” pointing out that rejection to impose some taxes in order to secure funds is an indirect disapproval of the wage scale.

The Syndical Coordination Committee, demobilized Civil Defense employees and military veterans rallied in Riad al-Solh in parallel with the meeting.

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.

Amin Samaha, Secretary of the committee of demobilized Civil Defense employees who are demanding to be given retirement salaries, said: “There are no more than 100 discharged individuals who have served the State for 40 years. They were demobilized without pension although a decree issued in the year 2000 gave them that right.”

Before the meeting began, Progressive Socialist Party MP Akram Shehayyeb said: “The PSP supports the approval of the wage scale with a ceiling limit of 1200 billion, any thing more than that will be refused.”

For his part, Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan assured that the “scale will be approved today,” and linked it in one way or another, “to the budget within one or two weeks.”

A list of draft laws are included on the parliament’s agenda, but they are topped with the long-awaited salary scale file for civil servants and the approval of the State’s budget.

Parliamentary blocs are still divided over the resources to fund the scale, mainly over some proposed taxes that the private sector has warned of “having negative impact on the country’s economy and state finances.”

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