Protest against taxes in Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square in Beirut, Sunday, March 19, 2017. (The Daily Star/Ahmad Azakir)
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Prime Minister Saad Hariri, feeling the pinch of street protests against proposed taxes to finance a salary scale bill, promised Sunday to take measures to curb corruption and halt waste of public funds, two key demands which protesters blame for the deteriorating economic crisis, budget deficit and public debts estimated at more than $74 billion.Spurred by four days of anti-tax and anti-corruption street protests, senior officials, including Speaker Nabih Berri and Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, called for refocusing attention on efforts to agree on a new electoral law with the three-month deadline for inviting voters to prepare for parliamentary elections, slated for May 21, drawing near.Although the protest was marked by minor scuffles with security forces deployed in central Beirut to prevent violence, the protesters dispersed peacefully Sunday evening after nearly six hours during which they shouted anti-government slogans, including calls for the toppling of the regime.There were calls on social media platforms for another protest and sit-in on Riad al-Solh Square at noon Wednesday to coincide with the weekly Cabinet session and probably a Parliament meeting to pursue discussions on the proposed taxes to finance the salary scale bill.In an unprecedented gesture by any prime minister, Hariri joined the protesters in Riad al-Solh Square, seeking to assure them that their call for fighting corruption and stopping the squandering of public money would be implemented.Machnouk last month signed a similar decree, which was also signed by Hariri, urging voters to take part in parliamentary elections set for May 21 .
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