Source: China Daily Published: 2018-12-10
French President Emmanuel Macron makes a televised address to the nation after four weeks of nationwide protests, Paris, France, on Dec 10, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]
Making reforms will still be on French President Emmanuel Macron's agenda, despite his attempt to restore calm after weeks of violent protests, experts say.
Zhao Junjie, a researcher of European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that although Macron announced a series of financial measures to defuse the "yellow vest" revolt, he will still have to pursue reforms as the country is in need of change.
The protests, which started on Nov 17 against a fuel tax hike and have seen rioting in Paris and other cities and taken a heavy financial toll, are the biggest challenge for Macron since the former investment banker took office in 2017 on promises to revitalize the economy.
On Saturday, an estimated 136,000 people turned out for protests across the country. The number was the same as that of the previous week. At least 71 people were injured in the Paris protest riots and nearly 1,000 people were being held in custody.
In a televised speech on Monday, Macron told the nation that "I accept my share of responsibility "for the crisis, and outlined a series of financial measures to placate the "yellow vest" protesters.
These include a 100 euro ($113) monthly increase in the minimum wage starting at the beginning of the new year, abolition of taxes on overtime pay in 2019, asking profit-making companies to give workers tax-free year-end bonuses, and scrapping a tax hike for retirees.
But his announcement met with a mixed response from protesters, with some promising further action and others acknowledging his efforts.
Zhao said that the French economy has been stagnant in the past few years, and the country also faces problems such as an aging population, flawed social welfare system, an influx of refugees and high unemployment.
"To ensure both the social welfare of the older people and the employment of young people, the key is to make innovations and changes to stimulate the economy," Zhao said. "Reform is a must."
He said that the election of Macron, who promised to rejuvenate the economy, showed that the majority of French people have the common view that reforms are needed.
"But different people have different concerns, and will become upset when reforms touch their real interest," he said, adding that Macron has to sort out the specific issues of different groups of people and adjust specific rules in his reform agenda.
Wang Peng, an associate research fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of Renmin University of China, said that Macron's compromise is more like a strategy and he will not easily give up on reform.
He also added that the influence of the violent protests also make it even more difficult to boost France's growth, as protests that have damaged holiday retail sales and worried international tourists and foreign investors.
Wang Peng is an associate research fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of Renmin University of China.