Lebanese Protesters Hurl Stones at Police Near Parliament

In recent days, security forces have set up concrete blast walls around the government headquarters to keep away protesters

Army soldiers scuffle with anti-government protesters blocking a road leading to the parliament building in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020.
Hassan Ammar,AP

Lebanese protesters hurled rocks and metal barricades at security forces blocking a road near parliament on Monday ahead of a budget debate as Lebanon grapples with a deep financial crisis.

Some protesters have rejected a new cabinet formed last week and accuse the political elite of ignoring demands that include an independent government and fighting corruption.

MPs are expected to vote on a budget that was first drafted by the Saad al-Hariri-led government that quit in October, prompted by the protests.

Parliament's finance and budget committee has introduced changes since then. Its chairman, Ibrahim Kanaan, told Reuters on Friday the latest projection was for a budget with a deficit of 7 percent instead of the originally hoped-for 0.6 percent, reflecting the crisis.

A firefighter rescue team carries an anti-government protester who was injured in clashes with police in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, on Monday, Januart 27, 2020. 
Hussein Malla,AP

In recent days, security forces have set up concrete blast walls around parliament and the nearby government headquarters, known as the Grand Serial, to keep protesters from reaching them. Over the past two weeks, downtown Beirut witnessed riots that left more than 500 civilians and policemen injured.

The protest movement broke out on October 17 over government plans to impose new taxes. Protest organizers say the movement will not accept anything less that the resignation of the ruling elite, who they blame for widespread corruption and mismanagement.

Lebanon has one of the world's highest public debts in the world, standing at more than 150 percent of gross domestic product. Growth has plummeted and the budget deficit reached 11 percent of GDP in 2018 as economic activities slowed and remittances from Lebanese living abroad shrank.

The national currency that has been pegged to the dollar since 1997 lost about 60 percent of its value in recent weeks, raising alarms among many Lebanese who have been losing their purchase power.

The former government had hopes to bring down the budget deficit to 7.6 percent of the GDP in 2019 year and to 6.5 percent in 2020.