Macron responds to riots with promise of tax cuts and wage hikes

11 Dec 18

French president Emmanuel Macron has promised to increase the minimum wage and cut taxes in response to the violent ‘yellow vest’ protests across the country.

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.

In a televised address to the nation on the evening of 10 December, Macron condemned the riots but acknowledged anger was “deep, and in many ways legitimate”.

He promised to raise the minimum wage by €100 a month from 2019 with the cost of this met by government rather than employers.

A planned tax increase for low-income pensioners would also be cancelled, overtime pay would no longer be taxed and employers would be encouraged to pay a tax-free end of year bonus to their staff, the president said.

There has been public pressure on the government to reinstate a tax on the wealthy but Macron said this “would weaken us, we need to create jobs”.

According to government minister Olivier Dussopt, the total cost of all the measures is likely to be between €8bn and €10bn. He added that the government is in the “process of fine-tuning and to see how to finance it”.

Following the weekend’s ‘yellow vest’ action, finance minister Bruno Le Maire said the French the riots were a “catastrophe for the economy” and “a crisis” for democracy in the country.

He said: “It’s a catastrophe for business, it’s a catastrophe for our economy.”

About 125,000 protesters took to the streets across France this weekend, and more than 1,200 people were taken into custody.

The capital Paris was particularly badly hit as 10,000 people took part in demonstrations.

Windows were smashed, cars burned and shops damaged.

But deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told local radio there had been fewer injuries compared with last week, when it was reported that at least three people had been killed.

Le Parisien newspaper reported that about 50 vehicles had been burnt and dozens of businesses vandalised in the city.

Last week, the French retail federation told Reuters that retailers had lost about €1bn since the protests broke out on 17 November.

Le Maire said last week the French restaurant trade had declined by between 20% and 50%.

Over the weekend museums, shops and restaurants shut and close 90,000 police officers were on duty across the country.

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