On Monday afternoon, the 72 hours Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri gave himself and the country's cabinet to introduce economic reforms, "set to meet" the demands of outraged protestors, were up.

After meeting with members of government for over five hours, the official relayed a hastily developed "reform plan" in a press conference broadcast live on TV. In his statement, Hariri announced the cabinet's approval of the 2020 budget with a deficit of 0.6 percent — bringing it down from the previously set 5.5 percent

He also said that no new personal tax schemes will be implemented and that the salaries of top officials - including legislators, current and former members of parliament - will be cut in half. Hariri described the new reform plan as a "financial coup," stressing that no government in Lebanon's history has taken such sweeping steps before. 

"The decisions that we made today might not fulfill your goals, but for certain it achieves what I have been seeking for two years," Hariri said.

"These decisions are not in exchange for anything. I am not going to ask you to stop protesting and stop expressing your anger. This is a decision that you take," he added. 

But, his words fell on deaf ears. 

Other reforms Hariri discussed include the privatization of the telecoms sector, the rise of tax on bank profits and social security benefits for seniors by the end of 2019. 

Just minutes after Hariri's press conference ended, protesters erupted in anger. It's safe to say that Lebanese have fully rejected the proposed reforms and called on the government to resign and hand over their power. 

People poured into the streets following the PM's speech forming demonstrations that continued well into the night. 

Why people rejected the proposed reforms:

For one, many believe the new reforms are "cosmetic" and don't cut deep into the root of the problems affecting the country. Protestors saw the approved plan as a confession from the politicians, a confirmation to the fact that the ruling parties have been purposefully sinking the country into poverty while filling up their personal bank accounts with tax money. 

Some also criticized the continued reliance on foreign loans when public funds are being depleted by theft. People also noted that the plan made no mention of the country's waste management crisis and its effect on pollution and the environment. 

The complete rejection of Hariri's proposed reforms is probably due to people's lack of trust in the entire ruling system and its corrupt politican figures. Lebanese people are fed up with the empty promises of those in power and want to see them resign from positions they've held for decades.

Others are rightfully questioning why the government waited on people to revolt before deciding to quickly act on pressing issues. To them, this means officials could've worked on ending people's suffering long ago but chose not to for their own personal benefit. 

Protesters were united in the fact that the only reform plan they're willing to accept is one that is led by a new and freely-elected government that will implement clear laws while holding corrupt officials accountable for their crimes. As protests enter their sixth day, demonstrators show no signs of backing down on this demand.

"Each politician needs to leave," a group of protesters can be heard saying. 

The reform plan's points at a glance

A total of 17 points were addressed in the newly approved reform plan. Other than the cases mentioned above, the government has also promised to abolish several state institutions, including the Ministry of Information. 

The blueprint also features articles regarding the passing of laws "to establish an anti-corruption committee by the end of the year" and "restore stolen public funds." Here's a quick look at other schemes that were proposed as part of the reform plan: 

  • Appointing regulatory committees to oversee projects in the power sector, telecommunications, and civil aviation
  • Cutting the budget of several state bodies
  • Reducing the power sector's deficit by $663 million (despite the funds already dedicated to this sector, power cuts are still a daily occurrence in Lebanon)
  • Approving the first phase of a capital investment program that donors have pledged to finance with $11 billion, on condition of reforms within three weeks
  • Implementing a scanner system at border crossings to combat smuggling 
  • Punishing smugglers 
  • Approving a long-shelved social security benefit for seniors law before 2020
  • Granting $13.3 million to a program supporting families living under the poverty line (40 percent of the population)
  • Providing $160 million to support housing loans
  • Backing the launch of investment projects in the Northern and Southern entrances of the capital Beirut