Sat, Dec 22, 2018 - Page 6 News List

French National Assembly passes tax cuts

‘CITIZENS’ ACT’:Macron said that he heard and was responding directly to critics’ ‘message’ that current issues should not be set aside for ‘end of the world’ problems

AFP, PARIS

A protester throws a reel of electrical cable into a fire at a blockade demonstration by “yellow vest” anti-government protesters at the entrance of a warehouse in Le Mans, France, on Thursday.

Photo: AFP

The French National Assembly yesterday approved a package of emergency concessions first announced by French President Emmanuel Macron to end violent “yellow vest” protests.

The tax cuts for low-income workers were put forward by Macron in a televised address earlier this month to help cool weeks of protests that brought major disruption to the country.

The measures provide a “quick, strong and concrete response” to the crisis, French Minister of Labor Muriel Penicaud said in a debate that lasted into the early hours of yesterday morning.

The measures include the removal of a planned tax increase for a majority of pensioners and tax-free overtime pay for all workers.

Economists have estimated that the cuts would cost up to 15 billion euros (US$17.2 billion).

The concessions would now move to the French Senate for approval.

Tens of thousands of people joined rallies across France on consecutive Saturdays in a movement that sprung up over fuel tax hikes, but snowballed into broader opposition to Macron.

Police this week said that they would start removing barricades at roundabouts and on motorways after the demonstrations began to run out of steam.

The protests, which at times spiraled into violence, took a toll on the economy, with businesses counting the cost of supply disruptions, smashed property and a dearth of shoppers and tourists who stayed away from city centers.

On Thursday, the president told critics of the fuel tax hikes “you’re right” after 1.15 million people signed a petition that suggested several other ways to fight fossil fuel pollution.

Macron called the petition a “citizens’ act.”

“Your message, I heard it. I am responding to you directly, you are right,” Macron wrote on the Web site Change.org.

He told the petition signers that his government has canceled the planned increase in fuel tax, and that no hikes in gas and electricity prices would be made during the winter.

While restating that reducing fossil fuels, which contribute to climate change, was a necessary action, Macron said that it “must not put the problems of the end of the world in opposition to the problems at the end of the month” — alluding to the anger of the “yellow vest” protest movement about the cost of living in France and the difficulty in making ends meet.

The number of people who have been killed during the “yellow vest” protests since they began early last month rose to nine on Thursday after a 60-year-old man was hit by a truck at a demonstration next to a motorway near southwestern Agen.

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