Macron seeks to win back left­wingers with new anti-poverty plan

Global Times - - World -

Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron an­nounced a slew of mea­sures Thurs­day to com­bat stub­born poverty in France, seek­ing to win back sup­port from left­wingers who say his poli­cies have left the poor­est be­hind.

France spends more on so­cial ben­e­fits than any other coun­try in Europe, yet nine mil­lion peo­ple live un­der the poverty line, sur­viv­ing on around 1,000 euros ($1,160) a month.

Macron, a for­mer in­vest­ment banker who cam­paigned as a cen­trist, has been la­belled the “pres­i­dent of the rich” by crit­ics over his tax cuts for the wealthy – a la­bel he is keen to shed.

Un­veil­ing an anti-poverty plan worth eight bil­lion euros ($9.3 bil­lion) over four years, he said his fo­cus was on im­prov­ing the life chances of chil­dren born into low-in­come fam­i­lies.

“I’m here to launch a new fight, cru­cial for our coun­try, to see that no-one gets for­got­ten,” he said, adding that the “scan­dal of poverty” had be­come nor­mal­ized in France.

“There is a Mozart in ev­ery child, in­clud­ing a child born into a poor fam­ily,” Macron said.

But that po­ten­tial was be­ing snuffed out “be­cause we de­cide that there is no chance they will ever be­come Mozart,” he said.

The plan in­cludes free break­fasts for the poor­est chil­dren as well as sub­si­dized school lunches priced at a euro.

France’s most de­prived towns will be given fund­ing to open new day­care cen­ters, Macron added.

“Not hav­ing ac­cess to day­care for their chil­dren means block­ing peo­ple from ac­cess to train­ing or work,” he said in a speech at the Musee de l’Homme in Paris, an an­thro­pol­ogy mu­seum.

Com­pletely free health­care will be ex­tended to sev­eral mil­lion more peo­ple, while var­i­ous backto-work schemes will be ex­tended.

De­spite its na­tional motto of “lib­erte, egalite, fra­ter­nite” – free­dom, equal­ity and broth­er­hood – France has long strug­gled to im­prove so­cial mo­bil­ity for the poor­est.

A child in a de­prived district is four times more likely to end up strug­gling in school than one from a richer area – the worst rate out of the 36 coun­tries in the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (OECD).

France’s so­cial ex­pen­di­tures, in­clud­ing health, hous­ing and em­ploy­ment, came to 32.1 per­cent of GDP in 2015, the high­est rate in Europe.

Yet more than a mil­lion ex­tra peo­ple have fallen be­low the poverty line since the fi­nan­cial cri­sis a decade ago, bring­ing the cur­rent poverty rate to 14 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to na­tional sta­tis­tics of­fice INSEE.

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