France: Reopening strategist Castex appointed as the new prime minister

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PARIS —
The French President, Emmanuel Macron, on Friday appointed Jean Castex, who has coordinated France’s virus of the reopening of the strategy, as the new prime minister as the country focuses on the recovery of the economy hard hit by the pandemic, and months of strict locking. The relatively low-profile Castex replaces Edouard Philippe, who resigned earlier in the day, Macron reshuffles the government to change direction for the last two years of his term.

Macron, who says he wants a “new path” for the last two years of his mandate, has chosen a new face to address social and economic issues, in the midst of efforts for the country’s recovery.

Castex, 55, is a career public servant who has worked with several governments, but never as a minister. France’s gradual reopening plan has been viewed as generally successful until now.

A conservative, Castex has begun a local political career in 2008 in the small town of Prades, in the south of France, where he was re-elected mayor in March with the support of The Republican party.

He has worked as deputy secretary general at the presidency under former President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011-2012.

Castex is also considered an expert in the social affairs and health policies, two subjects that will be on the agenda in the months to come.

Many members of the government should be replaced in the next reshuffle.

Macron, a 42-year-old centrist, is seeking the balance between ministers from the right and from the left as well as the centrist allies and people from the private sector.

The reshuffle comes days after a green wave has swept across France in the local elections. Macron has seen his young centrist party defeat in France’s largest cities and, in the absence of plant local roots around the country.

The changes were planned even before the Sunday vote, as Macron’s government has been facing obstacles and criticism before and during the virus crisis.

As the pandemic peaked in the country in March and April, the authorities have come under fire for lack of masks, tests, and medical equipment.

Prior to this, Macron pro-business policies, widely seen as favoring the rich, has been hampered by the yellow vest economic movement against the perception of social injustice. This winter, weeks of strikes and street protests against a planned pension overhaul have shaken the country.

In addition, Macron designed to increase the creation of jobs have been taken away by the social and economic consequences of country lock.

The government has published a 460 billion euros of emergency, through a state-funded part of the activity plan, tax reductions and other financial incentives for businesses, and Macron must adapt its policies that France’s economy is expected to shrink by 11% this year.

The unemployment rate, which fell from 9.2% at the beginning of Macron’s term, in 2017, to 7.6% at the beginning of this year, its lowest level since 2008, is now expected to increase steadily.

“Our first priority will be to rebuild a strong economy, eco-friendly, sovereign and united,” Macron said in a televised speech to the nation, 14 June.

He has ruled out any tax rise and instead said “work and produce more” is the answer in the midst of bankruptcies and redundancies caused by the crisis.

He put the emphasis on the creation of new jobs, with the climate-oriented policies, including the renovation of old buildings and greener transportation and industries.

Philippe, 49 years, is called to become the mayor of the city of le Havre, western of France, after he won a big victory in Sunday’s vote.

A conservative, former member of the Republican party, he had joined Macron government in May 2017.

He had seen its popularity increase significantly in recent weeks, according to the French pollsters who show a lot of French consider that he has done a good job as the easing of virus-related restrictions in the country and execution of an emergency, to support the French economy.

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AP Writer Angela Charlton contributed to the story

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