Hariri speaks to the media following the Parliament session in Beirut, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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Both Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Finance Minister Ali Khalil defended the approved tax measures, saying they were essential to funding the salary hike law, estimated to cost over $800 million annually, and protect the ailing economy, burdened by more than $75 billion in public debt and endemic budget deficits.Although a number of lawmakers blasted the imposition of taxes that they say affects poor and low-income people, the Cabinet's tax law passed smoothly with 71 votes for and five against, during a parliamentary session devoted to the public sector's salary scale law and revenues to fund it. After chairing a morning and evening session, Berri scheduled three successive legislative sessions for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week to elect members of parliamentary committees and begin debating the draft 2017 state budget in a bid to ratify the country's first fiscal plan in 12 years.Speaking to MPs at the end of the day, Hariri responded to lawmakers who criticized the tax measures by saying the salary scale law could not be implemented without new taxes.Khalil then said that passing taxes would protect the salary scale.As well as the tax amendments approved by Cabinet, Monday's session discussed allowing the government to delay the public sector pay hike in lieu of complementing taxes and passing the 2017 draft budget without the auditing of previous years.MPs also approved a 20-percent tax on national lottery prizes and a two-percentage point rise to 7 percent on taxes on bank deposit interest.
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