Emmanuel Macron has pledged to cut taxes for pensioners and raise the minimum wage in January but refused to reinstate a wealth tax, as he sought to respond to a wave of civil unrest that has challenged his authority.
In a televised address, the French president also promised that “all means” would be used to restore calm after the disruptive gilets jaunes protests that have deeply shaken the nation.
“We will respond to the economic and social urgency with strong measures, by cutting taxes more rapidly, by keeping our spending under control, but not with U-turns,” Macron said in his first address since anti-tax protests around the country turned into rioting in Paris.
Macron acknowledged anger and indignation among members of the public over the cost of living, but he said no indulgence would be given to people behind the protest violence.
He said no anger justifie attacking police or looting stores, and that such behaviour threatened France’s liberty.
All of the measures offered had been demanded by the yellow-vested protesters, who have led four weeks of increasingly radicalised demonstrations against Macron’s presidency.
As France cleaned up after another day of protests, the country was counting the cost of what ministers described as a social and economic catastrophe. On Monday France’s central bank halved its fourth-quarter growth forecast from 0.4% to 0.2%, far below the 0.8% growth needed to meet the government’s full-year target of 1.7%.
“We can’t recover this,” the finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, said on RTL radio. “That’s the reality, for businesses, shop owners whose stores were damaged, vandalised or looted on Saturday.”
Lorries towed away burnt-out cars and motorcycles on Sunday, shops removed boarding from their windows and council workers cleaned up the detritus of rioting and looting.