BEIRUT: Parliament reconvened Wednesday evening to resume discussing the most contentious parts of the controversial new salary scale, with only hours left to approve it before the long-delayed bill has to be shelved indefinitely due to the presidential election.
During the morning session, Speaker Nabih Berri postponed debate on several proposals, including raising the value added tax to 11 percent, increasing taxes on profits of banks and increasing taxes on interest on deposits, as well as the section covering the actual wage increase, which alone is 41 items.
The draft law is divided into two sections: the wage hike itself and the means to fund the new salary scale. MPs only approved 12 out of the 25 items in the latter section during the morning session.
Some of approved items were a 1.5 percent increase on construction licenses and an exit fee for travelers on private jets.
Berri, who adjourned the morning session to 6 p.m., proposed the creation of a parliamentary committee to prepare a study on illegal seaside properties and address disputed items related to the violations.
The committee will hand over its review to Parliament's General Secretariat so that MPs can discuss it during the evening session.
MPs voiced fears that Parliament would not be able to pass the draft law Wednesday, which would be a major setback in the more than two-year battle over the bill.
Berri has said that starting May 15, Parliament would be in session to elect a new president by the May 25 deadline. There is also a controversy whether the Constitution would allow Parliament to legislate in the absence of an elected president.
Moreover, some Christian lawmakers have said they will boycott any legislative session if Lebanon is plunged into a vacuum, asking Berri to refrain from calling a parliamentary session after the deadline.
As MPs kicked off the morning session, thousands of civil servants and teachers who observed a one-week nationwide strike demonstrated outside Parliament yet again, demanding lawmakers pass the bill.