Paris, Jul 14 (efe-epa).- French President Emmanuel Macron ruled out tax increases and said Tuesday he would relaunch controversial pension reforms as part of fresh economic measures to cushion the impact of the coronavirus recession.
“You cannot overcome a crisis like this by raising taxes,” Macron said in a televised interview to mark France’s national holiday Bastille Day.
He added that raising taxes would have negative effects on French consumption and would increase uncertainty in the economy.
“It would not solve anything and would discourage people from seeking enrichment based on work,” the president said, adding that reducing taxes in France, which has one of the highest individual tax rates in Europe, was key to his electoral campaign.
Macron said pension reforms that were put on hold during the pandemic would be resumed with some changes.
The president was at loggerheads with union leaders over the overhaul to a universal points-based system triggering massive strikes that paralyzed the country for weeks in late 2019.
The reform was put on the backburner in March but Macron said Tuesday that although the new system needed “reworking” it was fair and necessary.
Macron said the backbone of the government’s economic relief package would be to fight unemployment by focussing on young people who will enjoy a novel “exceptional tax exemption mechanism” for the next two years.
After his ruling party was handed a humiliating defeat in municipal elections in which environmentalists made big gains and was followed by a cabinet reshuffle, the president said the economic recovery must have an environmental component.
Macron announced investments in less polluting sectors saying “we won’t recreate the industries of old but we can in France become once again an industrial nation through ecology”.
He noted the country would seek to curb imports, ramp up regional production levels and harness digital technologies to refocus on national production.
The president left the possibility of a Constitutional amendment to include the first article fighting global warming and safeguarding biodiversity open.
Macron also announced that the use of masks will be mandatory in closed spaces.
“We are seeing that there is relaxation in some gestures and in the coming weeks we are going to do the mandatory masks in all closed public places,” Macron said during his television statement.
The French president said “we have some signs that it’s coming back a bit,” and warned a second wave was a possibility.
“I want us, in the next few weeks, to make masks compulsory in enclosed public places,” Macron added.
“I ask fellow citizens to wear masks as much as possible when they are outside, and especially so when they are in an enclosed space.”
The president said all citizens would be given the opportunity to get tested without the need for a prescription, even those without symptoms.
With the bolstered testing drive, the government hopes to isolate infections before wide-spread transmission occurs. EFE-EPA