French President Emmanuel Macron gave a rare press conference on Thursday, where he promised to cut taxes and institute other economic reforms as he attempts to reboot his presidency (as FT puts it).
Macron’s speech was wide-ranging, and covered education and the environment – as well as acknowledging the threat of a “political Islam that wants to secede with our Republic.”
“We are talking about a secession that has sometimes slyly installed because the Republic had deserted or had not kept its promises, we are talking about people who, in the name of a religion pursue a political project, that of a political Islam that wants to secede with our Republic. And there, I asked the government to be intractable.” -Macron (via La Presse)
The French President was originally going to announce the reforms on April 15, but postponed due to the fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral. In short – Macron is trying to calm down the Yellow Vests, which have been protesting for more than five continuous months against high taxes and government mismanagement. For reference, here is what they want:
Other key quotes from Macron’s Thursday speech via the Straits Times:
ON MACRON’S GOVERNMENT REFORMS
“I asked myself: Should we stop everything that was done over the past two years? Did we take a wrong turn? I believe quite the opposite.”
ON FRANCE’S TOWN HALL DEBATES AFTER THE PROTESTS
“We are above all children of the Enlightenment. And it is from these debates, these deliberations, this capacity to contradict one another … that good solutions can emerge for the country.”
ON SCHOOLS AND HOSPITALS
“We must maintain public service (in the countryside)… guarantee the access for all to health services and guarantee that no school or hospital will be closed without the mayor’s approval.”
ON REFORMING FRANCE’S CIVIL SERVICE AND ELITE SCHOOLS
“I want to reform our senior public service. This is not a meritocratic system any more… We don’t need job-for-life protection.”
Macron also confirmed he would scrap France’s Ecole Nationale d’Administration, a postgraduate school that was founded in 1945 by Charles de Gaulle to train a postwar administrative elite drawn from across all social classes.
ON SCRAPPING FRANCE’S WEALTH TAX
Macron ruled out re-introducing the wealth tax – known in France as the “ISF” – that his government replaced by a tax lucrative property deals and real estate assets.
“Since it’s a pragmatic reform, it will be re-evaluated in 2020. If it’s not efficient, we’ll amend it.”
ON TAX CUTS
Macron said he wanted to “significantly” reduce income tax to alleviate the burden on the middle classes.
“Workers who pay income tax have widely contributed in past decades. So I’ll be simple, I don’t want tax increases. I want cuts for those who work by significantly reducing the income tax.”
Macron outlined some of the ways the tax cuts would be financed: “I’ve asked the government to implement this tax reduction by closing some corporate tax loopholes, making people work more and cutting public spending.”
Macron called for better control of borders at the national and European level. He said changes should be brought to the Schengen Area, even if it led to a reduction of its scope or to fewer member states.
“To be open, you need limits; to welcome someone, you need a house, so you need borders.”
ON WORKING MORE AND RETIREMENT
“We have to work more, I’ve said it. France works a lot less than its neighbours. We have to have a real debate about this.”
Macron said he did not wish to push back the legal retirement age beyond the current threshold of 62.
But he also outlined the need for measures that would require French citizens to contribute for a longer period to the pension system before retiring.