Wednesday 23 October 2019

Macron aims to end protests with tax pledge

Caught off-guard: French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Caught off-guard: French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Michael Rose in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron proposed reviewing the rate of tax on diesel and petrol every three months to take into account moves in global prices, seeking to defuse sometimes violent protests against high gasoline taxes that have caught him off-guard.

The unrest, which over the weekend left some Parisian boulevards badly vandalised, has stung Mr Macron as he seeks to fight back against a sharp fall in popularity and has exposed him to charges of being out of touch with voters.

In an hour-long address on energy policy which also took in the "yellow vests" protest, Mr Macron insisted he would not be bounced into changing tack in his push for a transition towards cleaner energies or alter policy because of street violence.

But in a display of rare humility and striving to show empathy with anger among voters living outside of France's big cities, the 40-year-old said his administration needed to be smarter in its policy-making to avoid a "two-speed France" emerging, where workers in outer-urban areas are left behind.

"We must not change course, because the policy direction is right and necessary," Mr Macron said in the televised address. "But we need to change how we work because a number of our citizens feel this policy course is imposed on them from above."

He said the French people could not demand better public services and also expect lower taxes.

However, he acknowledged the increase in diesel tax, which kicked in just as pump prices were rising, had inflicted more pain than anticipated.

Irish Independent

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