Macron's consultation will mean little until his government take real action to change the lives of the worst-offby Mathilde Brard / February 1, 2019 / Leave a comment
In mid-January, Emmanuel Macron launched a national debate in France in response to the gilets jaunes, or yellow vest, protests. The consultation, which lasts until March 15, is intended to be open to everyone in France. People are invited to participate in different ways: they can express their views in “registers of grievances” available in townhalls and online; they can also organise debates themselves with the help of “territorial kits” prepared by the government, which include information about culture, health, accommodation employment and transport of one’s region; finally, the president and other members of the government are going around the country or on TV to meet and debate with local representatives and citizens.
In his letter that introduced the debate, Macron defined the limits of the debate with a list of questions that highly reflects his own economic and social policies. He has also made it clear that the government is not willing to question the measures that were previously adopted.
Since the start of his presidency, the French president has often been described as the ‘president of the Rich’ due to his reforms such as the suppression of the ISF (the solidarity tax on wealth), the introduction of a flat tax as well as cuts in housing benefits. French economist Thomas Piketty has argued that these policies reflect a “direction of fiscal dumping in favour of the richest and most mobile,” reflective of Macron’s “lack of understanding of the inegalitarian challenges posed by globalisation.”
Despite the advantages that arose from the ‘urgent decisions’ taken by the government following four weeks of protests in Paris and around the country, a study published by the Institut des Politiques Publiques of Paris (Public Policy Institute) also demonstrates this lack of understanding. The study indicates that although the purchasing power of the poorest 20 per cent of households should improve thanks to the government’s emergency measures, it also reveals that it is impacting the public deficit. This deficit will likely be balanced through more cuts in public services like education, defence and security, health, and public broadcasting.
This is clearly reaffirmed in Macron’s letter, in which he gives the people the choice between less taxes or less spending on public services—without offering the option to increase the taxes of the most privileged, to revise MPs and high officials’ salaries and businesses’ tax concessions, or even to engage with more effective measures to prevent tax evasion.
Le Monde Diplomatique has observed that the president appears to be copying regulations from the UK job sector, even though they have resulted in the lowering of workers’ wages. Elsewhere, Lawyer Romain Jehanin regrets the absence of a financial contribution to Pôle Emploi—the French equivalent of Job Centres—from businesses who abusively dismiss their employees.
These reforms just confirm Macron’s liberalism and protection of employers which contribute to economic and social injustices. As Piketty indicates, the thinking is that the rich and wealthy business holders should be “cherished,” as they participate in the creation of jobs and supposedly encourage more investment in France. In reality, however, the poorest 10 per cent of households are still the ones who suffer the most from Macron’s policies, as is also shown by the Public Policy Institute.
It seems very unlikely that Emmanuel Macron will change his position on his economic policies. Macron’s meetings with French people all around the country is highly reminiscent of the 2017 presidential campaign that brought him into power: he may promise change, but it is unclear who will actually benefit. Doubts about the organisation of the debate and its neutrality also raise questions about whether the government is acting sincerely or if it is just a way to put an end to the yellow vest movement.