Thu, Dec 06, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Macron retreats on fuel tax hikes

AFP, PARIS

The French government on Tuesday backed down on planned fuel tax hikes in a bid to draw the heat out of fierce protests.

The concessions, coming after an earlier 500 million euro (US$566.46 million) relief package for poorer households, mark the first time French President Emmanuel Macron has given ground in the face of public opposition.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced rollbacks on fuel taxes and electricity price increases in a rare televised address after France was rocked by intense street clashes and vandalism in Paris over the weekend.

“This anger, you would have to be deaf and blind not to see it, nor hear it,” Philippe said. “No tax merits putting the unity of the nation in danger.”

Planned tax increases on petrol and diesel on Jan. 1 are to be suspended for six months, while hikes in regulated electricity and gas prices would be frozen during the winter.

Across France, four people have been killed in accidents linked to the demonstrations and road blockades, and hundreds injured.

Rescinding the increase was a core demand of the “yellow vest” demonstrators, alongside a higher minimum wage and the return of a wealth tax on high earners that Macron abolished.

Two groups blockading petrol depots in Brittany said they would stand down following the announcement of the measures, which would cost public coffers about 2 billion euros.

However, many others said they had no intention of stopping.

“We want Macron and his entire government to resign,” said Lionel Rambeaux, a welder at a fuel depot blockade outside Le Mans.

French Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner said that extra police would be deployed on Saturday on top of the 65,000 out last weekend, urging “reasonable” protesters to stay at home.

A poll by Ifop-Fiducial on Tuesday showed Macron’s approval rating at a record low of 23 percent.

“Eventually, he backed down, which is going to divide the [yellow vest] movement, but it also risks dividing his own political base,” said Jerome Sainte-Marie of the PollingVox survey group.

Macron’s office said he would not speak publicly about the violence “for the time being,” although he met briefly with a protester at his office.

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