BEIRUT: Local banks will close Friday to show their opposition to additional taxes proposed by lawmakers to finance the public sector wage hike bill, the Association of Banks in Lebanon said Thursday.
"Banks will close Friday April 11, 2014, in protest of the taxes put forward by the Parliamentary joint committees,” the association said in a statement.
It added that the association would hold contacts with several government officials and lawmakers to discuss "the dangers of the proposed taxes," seeking "more realistic" alternative means to fund the draft law.
The statement was issued as lawmakers from the country’s various blocs reconvened in Parliament and resumed discussion on legislation to raise the salaries of public sector workers and teachers.
Speaker Nabih Berri, who chaired the session, pushed for the wage hike bill to be finalized this week.
At the beginning of the session, Berri was quoted as telling MPs, “The night is long because the importance of the discussion stems from the importance of the issue at hand.”
The Union Coordination Committee, which represents civil servants and teachers, suspended their strike and protests until Monday based on a promise made by Berri that Parliament would pass the draft law before then.
The union has been protesting for over two years to pressure the government and Parliament to pass the wage hike, which estimates suggest would cost the treasury $1.6 billion annually. The private sector has repeatedly voiced its opposition against the bill, saying it would spell doom for the economy.
MP Ali Fayyad said lawmakers would do their best to approve the draft law as soon as possible, voicing optimism that MPs could finish their discussion in the next few days.
During a parliamentary session earlier in the day, Berri said he would hold another session Friday if the joint committees approved the wage hike.
The Joint Committees approved Wednesday most of the proposals to finance the hike, including one to raise the 5 percent tax on deposit interest revenues to 7 percent.
They also passed a proposal to impose taxes on seafront properties, although have yet to discuss the percentage of the raise, and to tax financial institution profits.
Other proposals that have yet to be addressed include one calling for paying out the hike in installments, along with reforms.