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France halts fuel tax hikes to quell protests

This article is more than 12 months old

PARIS France's Prime Minister yesterday suspended planned increases to fuel taxes for six months in response to weeks of sometimes violent protests, the first major U-turn by President Emmanuel Macron's administration after 18 months in office.

In announcing the decision, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said anyone would have "to be deaf or blind" not to see or hear the anger on the streets over a policy that Mr Macron has defended as critical to combating climate change.

"The French who have donned yellow vests want taxes to drop and work to pay. That is also what we want.

"If I didn't manage to explain it, if the ruling majority didn't manage to convince the French, then something must change," Mr Philippe said in a TV address.

As well as a six-month delay in introducing the carbon-tax increases, Mr Philippe said the period would be used to discuss other measures to help the working poor who rely on vehicles to get to work and go to the shops.

COMPROMISES NEEDED

Earlier, officials had hinted at possible increases to the minimum wage, but Mr Philippe did not make any such commitment.

He warned citizens, however, that they could not expect better public services and to pay lower taxes, and that therefore compromises needed to be made on both sides.

The so-called "yellow vest" movement, which started on Nov 17 as a social-media protest group named for the high-visibility jackets all motorists in France must have in their cars, has focused on denouncing a squeeze on household spending brought about by Mr Macron's taxes on fuel.

However, the protests have evolved into a wider, broad-brush anti-Macron uprising, with many criticising the President for pursuing policies that they say favour the rich and do nothing to help the poor and some violent fringe groups calling for him to go. - REUTERS

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