As France still struggles to get a grip on the massive protests that have been raging through the country for weeks, President Emmanuel Macron has admitted that the country is in a state of “economic emergency.”
“Today, we are forced to admit [it]. Today, I am announcing an economic emergency in our country,” Macron said, addressing the nation on Monday and calling for “support” for the French economy.
His address comes after four weekends of protests that started over the increase of fuel prices and turned into major discontent with his economic policies that demonstrators said favored the rich. The protests throughout the country boiled over into riots, clashing with police who resorted to using tear gas.
“There is no justification to the anger and all those violent clashes,”Macron insisted in his speech although admitting that the public has “right to indignation.”
The president then announced that the “minimal wages will be … increased by €100 ($113) per month” starting in May 2019. He also pledged to cancel taxes on overtime labor and introduce special tax exemptions for people earning less than €2,000 ($2,270) per month.
Macron, who is often criticized for allegedly only serving the interests of the rich in France, also announced that he ordered the prime minister to develop proposals that would allow “enterprises and the richest members of our society to contribute” to the program of the national economy support, yet he refused to reinforce the so-called “wealth tax.”
Macron scrapped the Solidarity Tax on Wealth (ISF) that forced all French households with assets of over €1.3 million ($1.48mn) to pay an additional percentage in 2017, provoking a wave of criticism from the public and the opposition politicians. French MP and the left-wing ‘Unbowed France’ Party leader, Jean-Luc Melenchon dubbed Macron a “President for the Rich.” In his Monday, speech, Macron still defended his stance on the issue by saying that the wealth tax “did not really help” France.
Macron also effectively blamed his predecessors for the poor state of affairs in France. He said that the living standards have been deteriorating for some 40 years against the background of the increasing income gap, which together fueled the social tensions. “It has been impossible to fix that in the recent years,” the president said.
“We will respond to the economic and social urgency with strong measures, by cutting taxes more rapidly, by keeping our spending under control, but not with U-turns,” Macron said.
The people, however, did not quite believe the bright future Macron painted in his speech as many called such measures populist while arguing that they would not bring any real changes or would even make the situation worse.
“For 13 minutes, Macron distributed money without announcing any economic [reforms],” one person wrote on Twitter, calling such approach “irresponsible.” Others insisted that a “reform of the institutions” and more public control over the government expenses is what is in fact needed.
Some people hailed Macron’s announcement as an actual victory for the Yellow Vest movement – an umbrella group behind the massive protests. “In six weeks, the Yellow Vests got what the trade unions did not get in 30 years,” one Twitter post read.
However, there were also those, who praised Macron for his “courage” and congratulated him on his “brave” decision