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Lebanon to Charge WhatsApp Calls in Bid to Raise Money

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DAMASCUS (Sputnik) - Lebanon’s Information Minister Jamal Jarrah said Thursday that all calls via WhatsApp and similar mobile applications would be charged as the cash-strapped nation struggles to cut budget deficit.

"The cabinet has agreed a charge of 20 [US] cents for the first call a day made via voice over internet protocol," Jarrah said, adding the idea was floated by the communications minister.

Lebanese TV channels reported that the controversial proposal still needed parliamentary approval. If passed, it will come into being in January. Calls via apps will cost $6 a month or $72 a year.

The charges will be in place for clients of the nation’s two state-run mobile service providers and then extended to Wi-Fi users.

The cabinet hopes to raise an additional $219 million for its debt-ridden budget. Lebanon has been running a deficit of 150 percent of its gross domestic product and has been looking for ways to slash spending.

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