Macron vows tax relief and urges calm in bid to quell protests

Пятница, 14 Дек, 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron announced a range of conciliatory measures aimed at appeasing "yellow vest" protesters, including increasing the minimum wage and cancelling a planned social security tax hike for pensioners earning less than 2,000 euros.

Speaking in a televised address, Mr. Macron condemned the violence but said the protesters' anger was "deep, and in many ways legitimate".

France has had weeks of demonstrations against the government's fuel tax hikes - which were scrapped last week - high living costs and growing dissatisfaction with Macron himself.

Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron's measures to help low-income families and so end the "yellow vest" protests will blow a hole in the budget and perhaps his reputation too, analysts say.

The government intends to trim costs elsewhere and possibly increase borrowing to finance the hand-outs which it hopes will encourage protesters to abandon their road-side barricades and stop marching in Paris and other towns. "I might have hurt people with my words".

A woman at the forefront of the "yellow-vest" protest movement in France has called for a "truce" in response to a series of concessions from President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron is perceived by many in France as arrogant, for instance telling an unemployed man he could find a job if he "crosses the street" and advising a retiree not to complain.

The planned fuel tax increases sparked particular anger among French blue-collar workers and rural residents.

Among the measures Macron announced was a 100 euro monthly increase in the minimum wage as of next year, for which businesses would not have to foot the bill.

People wearing yellow vests demonstrate behind a placard reading "Citizenship Referendum Initiative" in Bayonne, southwestern France, Tuesday Dec.11, 2018.

"To reverse would weaken us", said Macron adding that he would continue the fight against tax evasion. With the protests having closed down city centers and yellow-vest blockades of shopping malls, many have opted to buy gifts online rather than run the gauntlet of demonstrations.

The next day Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says the government will not back down on fuel tax increases set for January, meant to help pay for France's clean-energy initiatives.

Before his TV speech, Mr Macron met local and national politicians and union and business leaders to hear their concerns, but with no representatives of the scattered, leaderless protest movement. "I don't forget that there is an anger, an indignation, which numerous French can share", he said, noting that he wants to declare a "state of economic and social emergency" to address their needs. On Monday night, Macron made them the focus, seeking in an uncharacteristically short, direct speech to emphasize that he had taken the problems of the vulnerable into account - the single mothers who can not afford child care, the retirees who work their entire lives only to struggle in old age.

Some 10,000 protesters had taken to Paris' streets, where about 8,000 police were deployed.

The price of fuel in France has soared by more than 20% in the past year to around €1.49 (£1.34) per litre.

"We must expect a new slowdown of economic growth at year-end", he said.

With an estimated 136,000 people taking part nationwide last weekend, the protests have shown little sign of easing since they began.