Macron gov­ern­ment launches re­form plan

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

French Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe un­veiled an am­bi­tious pro­gram of tax cuts and re­duced pub­lic spend­ing on Tues­day de­signed to boost cor­po­rate in­vest­ment and end the coun­try’s re­liance on state bor­row­ing. Philippe put spurring en­trepreneur­ship at the heart of his first pol­icy speech to the Na­tional Assem­bly af­ter pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in May and June. “Busi­nesses must want to set up and de­velop on our ter­ri­tory rather than else­where,” Philippe told law­mak­ers, an­nounc­ing that cor­po­rate tax would be cut from 33 per­cent to 25 per­cent in the next five years.

Tack­ling France’s chronic over­spend­ing was a pri­or­ity, he said, warn­ing that the pub­lic debt now to­talled 2.1 tril­lion eu­ros, nearly the equiv­a­lent of an en­tire year’s eco­nomic out­put. “We are danc­ing on a vol­cano that is rum­bling ever louder,” Philippe told the newly elected Na­tional Assem­bly, say­ing that pub­lic spend­ing would be cut and the pub­lic deficit would be brought be­low 3.0 of GDP this year. “France can­not re­main the cham­pion both of pub­lic spend­ing and taxes,” he said. Al­most all of the mea­sures con­firmed elec­tion prom­ises from 39-year-old cen­trist Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron who was elected France’s youngest ever pres­i­dent in May af­ter promis­ing to mod­ernise the coun­try.

Elec­tion pledges

Philippe has al­ready out­lined one of the gov­ern­ment’s big­gest eco­nomic re­forms: An over­haul of France’s rigid la­bor law which will en­able com­pa­nies to ne­go­ti­ate work­ing terms and con­di­tions with their em­ploy­ees. The mea­sure faces re­sis­tance from left­ist op­po­nents. The pow­er­ful CGT trade union has al­ready called for street protests and strikes in Septem­ber. The gov­ern­ment will face lit­tle dif­fi­culty in pass­ing leg­is­la­tion in the lower house of par­lia­ment where can­di­dates from Macron’s new Repub­lic on the Move (REM) party won more than 300 out of 577 seats in last month’s elec­tion.

The up­per-house Se­nate, where rightwing Repub­li­cans hold a ma­jor­ity, will be trick­ier. Philippe said yes­ter­day that the gov­ern­ment would also hon­our other cam­paign pledges in­clud­ing in­tro­duc­ing a new na­tional ser­vice for young peo­ple and mak­ing den­tal and eye care free on the health sys­tem. Other mea­sures in­clud­ing rais­ing the price of cig­a­rettes pro­gres­sively to €10 from their cur­rent level of €7 to fight smok­ing-re­lated dis­eases, the big­gest cause of pre­ventable deaths in France.

Macron re­views

Macron, France’s youngest pres­i­dent at just 39, gave a state of the union ad­dress to both houses of par­lia­ment on Mon­day, a nov­elty which he in­tends to turn into an an­nual event to present his vi­sion for the coun­try. He said he was not aim­ing for mere re­forms but a “trans­for­ma­tion” of the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem and the econ­omy. He faced mixed re­views for his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress. The French press noted his de­ter­mi­na­tion to re­store the pres­tige of the of­fice of the allpow­er­ful pres­i­dency and said he ap­peared keen to stay above the po­lit­i­cal fray.

“Macron is leav­ing the dif­fi­cult work to Philippe,” wrote com­men­ta­tor Paul-Henri du Lim­bert in the right-lean­ing Le Fi­garo news­pa­per. But Macron’s style - he has used the for­mer royal palace in Ver­sailles twice since tak­ing of­fice and has given only one me­dia in­ter­view - has also seen him crit­i­cized by some for be­ing aloof, monar­chi­cal or even “pharaonic”. Yes­ter­day, he vis­ited a mil­i­tary base in the north­west of the coun­try, where he em­barked for a fourhour trip on the nu­clear sub­ma­rine “The Ter­ri­ble”.

Macron also promised in his speech on Mon­day to slash by a third the num­ber of MPs in the lower and up­per houses, telling law­mak­ers he would call a ref­er­en­dum if they do not agree to the mea­sure. The new head of state has broadly pos­i­tive ap­proval rat­ings with slightly more than half of re­spon­dents in re­cent polls ex­press­ing a pos­i­tive view of him - around the same level as Hol­lande en­joyed at the start of his term. — AFP

PARIS: French Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe makes his gen­eral pol­icy speech be­fore the Na­tional Assem­bly yes­ter­day. —AFP

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