France cancels fuel tax hikes amid protests

Marsha Scott
December 9, 2018

The Institute of Public Policies says that budget measures for years 2018-2019 overwhelmingly benefit the 1 percent richest people due to the wealth tax cut.

"I will not have a debate with the president of the United States through tweets", he said, adding that Trump "is doing this for American politics".

The visit and associated demands comes at a tough time for the French leader, who faces the fierce opposition of the "Yellow Vest" movement over economic reforms, which are seen as favouring the wealthy.

The protests prevailed on French President Emmanuel Macron, who campaigned on a platform of setting an example for the world in cutting greenhouse gases, to postpone implementation of the carbon tax proposal for six months.

Demonstrators have blocked roads nationwide, playing havoc with traffic in the busy run-up to Christmas.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner on Tuesday urged "responsible" protesters not to come to the capital after crowds ran amok last Saturday, burning more than 200 cars, vandalising shops and leaving the Arc de Triomphe daubed in graffiti.

A source in the prime minister's office told AFP that "the government has not necessarily played all of its cards", with more concessions such as a further cut in residence taxes possible.

French culture Minister Franck Riester said today that far-right and far-left agitators were planning to hijack rallies by "yellow vest" protesters in the capital and said: "We can not take the risk when we know the threat".

On Wednesday, France's largest farmers union said it will launch anti-government protests next week, after trucking unions called for a rolling strike.

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Some 89,000 security personnel will be deployed across the country on Saturday ahead of the fourth weekend of planned rallies, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Thursday. "I'm calling for responsibility".

The protest, called the "gilets jaunes", or yellow vests, sprung up after organizers coordinated to wear a uniform fluorescent yellow vest that working class motorists have to carry in their cars by law, the Guardian reported.

The French reaction to higher fuel prices is hardly unique, which highlights just how hard it can be to discourage fossil fuel consumption by making people pay more.

Had the government and President reacted immediately three weeks ago to discontent with the fuel tax, tensions would nearly certainly have been soothed.

But that policy, along with various comments deemed insensitive to ordinary workers, has prompted numerous ex-banker's critics to label him a "president of the rich".

Deliberately making fuel more expensive might not be that important to the mass-transit-loving urban elites that make up the base of Macron's support, as well as that of his ruling En Marche party, but it's a punch in the gut to small-town and rural France where, as in the US, cars and trucks are absolutely essential to getting from place to place and making a living.

Many shops and restaurants in the centre of the capital are shutting down Saturday, fearing a repeat of the violence. Many workers in France are angry over the combination of low wages, high taxes and high unemployment that have left many people struggling financially. But to grasp the real significance of the social unrest going on, it is necessary to stop for a moment and closely analyze this so-called movement of the "yellow vests".

Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud warned against creating "chaos" which would "do nothing to resolve the problems" of workers.

According to a recent survey, 84 percent of the French people - mostly from the middle-income group - support the protests.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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