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PRESIDENT Emmanuel Macron is gambling that offering fiscal measures worth €8-10 billion could bring an end to the “gilets jaunes” (yellow vests) protests, but the response of protesters has so far been cool.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe tried to sell the president’s measures today, telling parliament they were “massive" and proof that Mr Macron has “heard the anger.”
The measures included a €100 rise in the minimum monthly wage, abolition of a tax on pensioners earning less than €2,000 a month and non-taxation of overtime pay.
The government had already scrapped fuel tax increases set for January which will cost a further €4.5 bn.
Trade unions noted the threadbare nature of his call for employers to pay a tax-free bonus to workers this Christmas, without making it obligatory.
President Macron did not respond to demands to reimpose a wealth tax on high earners which he abolished last year, gaining the reputation as “president of the rich,” although he hinted, without details, that big firms would be tapped to help pay for the higher wages and pensions.
“I know that I have hurt some of you with my statements,” he said, such as telling an unemployed gardener that all he had to do to find work was to “cross the street” where restaurants, cafes or construction firms were hiring.
“I ask the government and parliament to do what is necessary so that people can live better through their labour from the beginning of next year,” the president said.
But the former investment banker was dogged in his commitment to his so-called reform agenda, saying: “We will respond to the economic and social urgency with strong measures, by cutting taxes more rapidly, by keeping our spending under control, but not with U-turns.”
La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) leader Jean-Luc Melenchon dismissed the president’s efforts, calling for “a citizens’ revolution” to continue until a fair distribution of wealth is achieved.
He insisted that the weekly Paris protests should continue, arguing that the minimum wage rise, tax-free overtime pay and end-of-year bonuses would not affect any “considerable part” of the French population.
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