The Lebanese Government on Thursday attempted to address its economic problems, agreed to introduce fees for users of telecommunications apps such as WhatsApp beginning from 2020, state media reported.
The Lebanese Minister of Information, Jamal al-Jarrah, in an interview with the state News Agency (NNA), said a proposed fee of 20 cent per day, or 6 dollars per month, would be imposed on WhatsApp users begining from Jan. 1, 2020.
Al-Jarrah explained that the proposal was aimed at shoring up government’s revenue, but yet to be approved by the parliament to become effective.
He noted that the sharp decline in the country’s telecommunication revenue seemed to be the main reason for imposing the controversial fee.
According to official figures, the country’s telecommunications earnings fell by about 33 per cent in 2018, compared to 2017. Meanwhile, Lebanon already has one of the region’s highest mobile charges.
However, the proposal immediately triggered an online backlash which called for street protests.
According to one self-styled protest group on Facebook, let us start with civil disobedience beginning on Oct. 28. Our leaders are not concerned about us.
Lebanon is under pressure from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to take austerity measures in return for financial support.
Lebanon had in recent time witnessed a series of anti-government protests, has one of the biggest public debt rates in the world, equivalent to about 150 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).