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Lebanon, for the cost of WhatsApp conversations

BEIRUT (Reuters) – the lebanese government has agreed to the imposition of a charge on calls to WhatsApp and other similar applications, as part of the effort to increase their revenues in the country by 2020, the design of the budget, the prime minister said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the central district of Beirut, Lebanon, on the 22nd of August 2019 at the latest. REUTERS/Mohammed Azakir/File Photo

Lebanon is one of the world’s highest debt burdens, low growth, and a crumbling infrastructure, and are faced with stress in the financial system and a slowdown in capital inflows. The government has declared a state of “economic emergency” and promised that steps will have to fend off a financial crisis.

Information Minister Jamal al-Jarrah said on Thursday that the government had agreed to a fee of 20 cents per day to make a call using voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP), which is used by applications such as the Facebook-owned (FB is.Oh WhatsApp, Facebook, calls, and FaceTime.

Prime minister Saad al-Hariri, said that the measure was expected to net about $200 million in revenue for the state each year, according to a statement released by his press office.

“And this is true for all of the voice-over-IP (voip). However, keep in mind that anyone can transmit and receive messages, photos and videos-at no additional cost,” said Hariri.

The country’s only two service providers, both state-owned and has some of the most expensive mobile rates in the region.

Lebanese TELEVISION channels have been cited as Telecom Minister, Mohamed Choucair as to say that the “surcharge would not be applied to it, without expecting anything in return”, he’d announce it the following week.

The finance Mininster Ali Hassan Khalil, said last month that there were no new taxes or fees provided for in the draft 2020 with a budget and sent it to the cabinet.

Lebanon, under pressure, to the adoption of the europe 2020 budget and the release of about $11 billion was pledged at a donor’s conference in the previous year, subject to fiscal and other reforms.

Hariri has said that the government would continue to work to further reduce the 2020 budget deficit.

Foreign allies have not yet been fully convinced that the Lebanese government is serious about reform, and to the French envoy, of the last month’s criticism of the pace of the work.

The government has just approved the 2019 budget in the middle of this year. Lebanon to 2017, was gone 12 years without a budget.

For a cabinet session on Thursday, Jarrah said, the ministers would discuss a proposal to increase the added value by 2 percentage points in 2021, and another 2 per cent in 2022, up to 15% of the total.

After the ministers ‘ decisions on the 2020 budget must be sent to the parliament for approval.

Reporting by Ellen Francis. Editing by Jane Merriman

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