Make sure you download this blog’s iOS app to stay up to date! (Link).
Lebanon hasn’t had a national budget since 2005. That is our country has been run totally à la laisser faire for the past 12 years. And then comes 2017, when out of all years, our politicians decide they absolutely must pass a national budget when they should be passing an electoral law first.
Part of the national budget to be passed is the wage raise that has been demanded by multiple sectors of the workforce for years. It was promised to them a few years ago when the protests and strikes first began. And even though it’s been years since that promise was made, a huge portion of Lebanon’s workforce still didn’t get what was promised to it.
So in order to fund the wage increase, our government needs further sources of income which can only be through forcing more taxes on the Lebanese citizen. As reported by Lebanon 24, there will be 22 taxes to be added in the national budget of which these are the most prominent:
- Increasing VTA from 10% to 11%, which adds 300 billion LL in revenue,
- Increasing the price of stamps on phone bills to 2500LL lira which provides 60 billion LL in revenue,
- Increasing the price of stamps on judicial records from 2000LL to 4000LL which provides 1.2 billion LL.
- Increasing the price of stamps on receipts from 100LL to 250LL which provides 45 billion LL.
- Doubling the fees of public notaries, which adds 30 billion LL.
- Increasing taxes on cement production which adds 50 billion LL.
- Modifying taxes on income and revenues to add 60 billion LL.
- Increasing taxes on alcohol to add 60 billion LL.
- Adding a 1.5% tax on construction licenses to add 100 billion LL.
- Enforcing taxes on passengers leaving the country, whether through land or sea or air, to add 125 billion LL.
In fact, that last tax will also be proportional to your travel class. For anyone traveling more than 1250km to their final destination, a tax will be enforced as follows:
- 75,000LL for every passenger in economy class,
- 110,000LL for every passenger in business class,
- 150,000LL for every passenger in first class,
- 400,000LL for every passenger in a private plane.
Will that private plane tax apply to our politicians who use their private jets for transport? Let’s wait and see. In fact, how does it even make sense that an economy passenger is going to pay nearly the same tax as a person in business class and only half of the tax that a passenger in first class pays?
It seems even our travels, which cost us a lot more than they should in visa fees because of the horrendous state of our passports, are open season for our government to make it even more expensive and harder for us to leave. $50 is not a joke for frequent travelers or for anyone who had to save up everything that they could to afford ticket prices in a country where that very government has made sure the market is monopolized by one airline carrier.
In fact, while our government passes taxes left and right, on top of new traffic fines, to fund its budget, one thing remains constant, if not increasing: how much our politicians are benefitting from all of this.
Instead of looking inwards at current entities that are government-owned and which could end up generating a ton of money, the Lebanese government looked outward towards its citizens instead. A few weeks ago, MTV Lebanon reported on the current state of Beirut’s Duty free, from which the government only made $20 million over the past decade. The contract in question was with a company owned by a former prime minister. The potential money that the government could have made had the contract for the duty free been fair would’ve been more than what it will make because of the tax increases.
In fact, despite the government needing astronomical amounts of money to fund the wage increase, our politicians are not touching their wages and increases. When other countries such as Greece or Jordan faced similar economical predicaments, their politicians took a wage and benefits cut to help.
Meanwhile, in the land of the Cedars, this is how much money our politicians get in monthly salaries:
- The president: monthly salary of 18,750,000 Lebanese Liras (LL) ($12,500) –> LL 225,000,000 $150,000 annually.
- The parliamentary speaker and prime minister: LL 17,737,000 ($11,824) a month –> LL212,844,000 million – $141,896 annually.
- Each minister: LL12,937,000 ($8,625) a month —> (LL212,844,000 – $103,496 annually).
- Each MP: LL12,750,000 ($8,500) a month —> (LL153,000,000 – $102,000).
That means our parliament and government costs us $16 million per year in salaries alone. On top of that $16 million figure is a $12 million figure, at the most conservative of estimates, in benefits, for a total of $28 million.
The money waste for our politicians not to do their job doesn’t stop there. A former MP receives 50% of his salary AND benefits for life if he serves one term. If he serves two terms, he gets 60% of that figure for life, and 75% if he serves 3 terms are more. The money that that translates to is about $20 million yearly.
In summary, that’s almost $50 million yearly that we’re already paying for politicians who don’t want it to be affected in any way whatsoever, while they make life for every Lebanese harder than it already is. That money is untouchable.
Keep in mind that the $50 million figure does not include what they make through all the ways they can use their governmental clout to make money via their private business, starting from running governmental run agencies like Beirut Airport’s Duty Free, to many other things.
The state of Lebanese complacency is reaching all-time highs: politicians can rob us of our money, provide nothing in return, rob us of our right to vote because they’re incompetent, and still be sure they’re going to be voted in whenever they let the people vote again.
Read the full new tax law here.