France mulls wealth tax changes as protests intensify

Demonstrators stand near toll gates on a motorway at Biarritz

Demonstrators stand near toll gates on a motorway at Biarritz

The French government on Wednesday (Dec 5) urged parties across the political divide to calm protests that have raged nationwide for more than two weeks, and signalled it was ready to make further concessions to avoid more violence.

The anti-government protests started last month over the fuel tax but have grown to encompass a broad range of grievances and anger at Macron.

Many "yellow vest" protesters, named after the high-visibility road safety jackets they wear, have called online for new protests this Saturday.

In the discussion for the event, Acte 4 - Vous avez carte blanche à Paris (Act 4: You have free reign in Paris), over 1,000 people have confirmed they will be attending and 6,000 have said they are interested, suggesting that protesters are gearing up for more violent conflict with the authorities this weekend.

French President Emmanuel Macron has lost support from the middle-class and blue-collar workers over his policies that favour the wealthy.

They were supposed to be approved at a cabinet meeting Wednesday and come into effect on 1 January.

And perhaps most worryingly for the French president and government, many of these events and those who are interested in going are calling for more disorder in the capital.

"I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protestors in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago", Trump tweeted late on Tuesday, as United Nations climate talks take place in Poland. The protests took on an even bigger dimension Wednesday with trade unions and farmers vowing to join the fray.

"I have no problem with admitting that on such or such question we could have done differently, that if there is such a level of anger.it's because we still have a lot of things to improve", the prime minister told legislators.

He said the wealth tax could be reassessed in the autumn of 2019.

Demonstrators at toll gates on a motorway in Biarritz
Demonstrators at toll gates on a motorway in Biarritz

"If your only response, Mr Prime Minister, is the suspension of Macron's fuel taxes, then you still haven't realised the gravity of the situation", Abad said. She says Macron's move on Wednesday night "is on the right path but in my opinion it will not fundamentally change the movement".

According to some in the Yellow Vest movement, the announcement is too little, too late.

He has seen a slump in popularity ratings since he was elected n 2017.

Students opposed to a university application system remained mobilized, trucking unions called for a rolling strike and France's largest farm union threatened to launch protests next week.

But the policy, along with comments deemed insensitive to the working class, has prompted numerous ex-banker's critics to label him a "president of the rich".

The "yellow vest" protests have blocked highways and fuel depots around the country, causing headaches for businesses and fuel shortages in some regions.

"We need taxes, but they are not properly redistributed", protester Thomas Tricottet told BFM television. Julien Guiller, a spokesman for the regional school administration, told The Associated Press the student was expected to survive.

"If not there will be chaos", said Christophe Chalencon, a 52-year-old blacksmith from southern France.

It marked the first major U-turn by Macron in his 18-months in office, at a time polls show that barely one in five French people think he is doing a good job.

US President Donald Trump appeared to mock Mr Macron over the policy shift, which could make it harder for France to meet its Carbon dioxide emissions-reduction target, a core element of the Paris climate agreement of 2015.

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