BEIRUT: Lebanon's Cabinet approved Wednesday coastal property taxes for every illegal beach resort and hotel, a move expected to raise the government’s revenues and replenish the depleted treasury.
The Cabinet also approved a loan to the Higher Relief Committee to help cover repair to damage caused by several armed clashes.
The approval of coastal property taxes marked the first move of its kind by Lebanese authorities to tax individuals and companies for illegally building hotels and sea resorts during the Civil War on seaside land which belongs to the state.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who chaired Wednesday's session, said he would support whatever decision Parliament reaches regarding a controversial draft election law.
"The government has referred the draft law to Parliament, thus paving the way for discussions; the government is committed to carrying out any formula agreed upon in Parliament,” Mikati told Cabinet.
Cabinet approved Tuesday a draft electoral law based on a proportional representation system that divides Lebanon into 13 districts in next year’s parliamentary elections.
But the decision, which was opposed by three ministers allied with Jumblatt, quickly came under fire by Hariri, who said that the draft law was directed against the majority of Lebanese and vowed to block its endorsement in Parliament.
Mikati criticized what he called “hasty comments that drifted off topic ... We believe that this stage requires [political leaders] to abandon narrow considerations and finalize a law that would secure an election process in a stable and quiet atmosphere away from intimidation.”
Mikati’s comments were made to ministers at the start of the Cabinet session at the Grand Serail in Downtown Beirut. The Cabinet held an ordinary meeting to discuss 57 items on its agenda.
Meanwhile, Hariri expressed his view that the draft law is directed against more than half the Lebanese population.
“Let it be clear from the beginning that this draft law is unacceptable and will not pass,” Hariri said in a statement released by his office.
“The government presented a draft law made to suit Hezbollah and its allies, whether through proportionality or through the division of constituencies,” he added.
“If approved in Parliament, the [draft] law will fully hand over political and national decision-making to the group that today controls the government’s decision-making,” Hariri said, in a clear reference to Hezbollah.
The decision was made during a Cabinet session chaired by President Michel Sleiman at Baabda Palace. It was the third Cabinet meeting designed to draw up a draft electoral law based on proportional representation drafted by Interior Minister Marwan Charbel.