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Lebanon may become the first country to charge for WhatsApp use

Lebanon may charge for using WhatsApp [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 October, 2019

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Lebanon may become the world's first country to charge residents to use WhatsApp after the cabinet launched a new proposal.
Lebanon may be the first country in the world to charge users for using WhatsApp and other online messaging applications in a new bid to increase revenues for the country's budget next year.

Between 2017 and 2018, telecom revenues dropped by 33 percent, which the ministry of telecommunications believe is because of residents using WhatsApp to make calls instead of making traditional telephone calls.

During a cabinet session on Wednesday, the prospect of charging for WhatsApp calls, which could mount to a monthly charge of $6 if the phone user made a WhatsApp call every day, Lebanese media reported.

WhatsApp users would be charged a flat rate of $0.20 daily if they make a phone call in a country that already has one of the most expensive mobile rates in the region.

Officials predict this will secure an annual revenue of $216 million for Lebanon's government, already under fire for financial corruption.

The reported proposal sparked outrage by politicians and celebrities online.

Lebanese singer Ragheb Alama lambasted the proposal, calling on politicians to "impose a tax on the polluted air the people are breathing".

Member of Parliament Paula Yacoubian snubbed the proposal, suggesting to focus more on internal corruption.

"The people will not pay a single [Lebanese] pound on the platform it insults you [politicians] on," she said.

"Get the money by stopping your [suspicious] deals that you refer to as projects. The money of the Bisri Dam should be invested in electricity which has a $2 billion annual deficit," Yacoubian tweeted.

'Government, parliament... thieves'

Last month, hundreds of people protested in Beirut on Sunday over increasingly difficult living conditions, amid fears of a dollar shortage and possible price hikes.

A skirmish broke out late September as protesters tried to break through security barriers in front of the cabinet office and anti-riot forces pushed them back with shields and batons.

Around 500 people, some carrying Lebanese flags, had gathered earlier in central Beirut's Martyr Square to march to the seats of government and parliament.

"Revolution, revolution," cried some of the protesters.

"Government, parliament... Thieves, thieves!"

Others chanted a popular refrain of the 2011 Arab Spring protests across the region: "The people want the fall of the regime".

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