France offers aid of € 100 at low wages to curb rising discontent

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France announced financial aid of € 100 (£ 85) for low to middle income people and pledged to freeze gasoline prices in an attempt to contain growing anger over record fuel prices and the increased cost of living.

“We obviously want to protect the French, especially those who work hard and who bear the brunt of these price increases,” said government spokesman Gabriel Attal.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said the one-time “inflation payment” would be granted to anyone earning less than 2,000 euros net per month, including private and public sector workers, the self-employed, job seekers. employment and retirees. The money would start to flow at the end of December.

He said it would affect around 38 million people and that oil prices would also be “frozen for the whole of 2022”.

A global surge in oil and gas prices – caused by increased demand and supply shortages – has pushed up prices at the gas station and in homes. It is acutely felt in France, especially in rural areas and on the outskirts of towns where people depend on their cars.

French anger threatens to derail Emmanuel Macron’s expected re-election campaign next April – especially if low-income voters revert to calling the French leader a ‘president of the rich’ who is out of touch with the daily cost of living .

Macron had started to shake off those accusations with his handling of the Covid crisis and French government grants to keep businesses afloat. But MEPs had warned of growing anger on the ground and the need to try to offset the impact of the global energy crisis.

Macron had hoped to bring public opinion back to the economy to counter media sound clips on national identity and immigration from far-right television specialist and presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, as well as the National extreme right of Marine Le Pen. Rally party.

The Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, had praised the economic “success” of the government in terms of growth and job creation, coupled with tax cuts, arguing that purchasing power had increased over the years. of the past four years.

But French voters, affected by the price hike, did not see it the same way. A poll by Elabe this week found that purchasing power was the number one issue in deciding the people’s vote in the presidential election.

The € 100 donation comes just ahead of the third anniversary of the anti-government yellow vests, or yellow vests, protests that began in the fall of 2018 as a motorist revolt against the fuel tax. Last weekend, small demonstrations were organized by yellow vests on roundabouts in some rural areas and small towns. The government is keen to prevent this escalation from turning into a fuel blockade or escalating street marches.

Opposition politicians from all sides criticized the handout measure. The Greens said they had not addressed the long-term problem of greener energy supplies and alternatives to passenger cars. Aurélien Pradié of the Republicans declared that he was “tinkered with” and that he would worsen the public debt. Xavier Bertrand, who is one of the many candidates seeking to represent the Les Républicains party in the presidential election, recently warned against Macron “a campaign with the nation’s checkbook”, yellow vests groups said that was not enough not.

The government had already pledged € 100 in cash assistance to around 6 million low-income households last month to help pay their energy bills. He pledged to cap gas and electricity prices and help the poor pay their winter heating bills as energy prices rise around the world during the post-pandemic economic recovery .

The French government has refused to reduce taxes paid at the gas pump, because of the cost to public finances and because it sees taxes as a key element in the drive to wean the economy off fossil fuels.

Le Pen continued to insist this week that VAT at the gas pump be reduced.

The “inflation payment” will cost the French treasury € 3.8 billion, which it said it would compensate with new income and budget savings.

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