Often governments underestimate the consciousness of the people - the small people, the working people, the binders of communities. Emmanuel Macron's government in France is guilty of such a blunder, hence subjecting France to weekends of protests and unfortunate violence. But the French government has now taken a first-step to remedy the fears and concerns of its people by suspending proposed fuel tax increases that were coming on January 01, 2019.
Macron and his government were swept into power in May, 2017, upon promises of reforms. Some of the reforms have already taken hold, yet some have proved difficult for many of the French to accept. Earlier economic reforms brought crippling transportation strikes and protests. But as soon as such protests appeared over, the French government planned fuel tax increases for January 2019.
Protests, "gilets jaunes"(yellow vest) protesters, named for the yellow vests the French are required to keep in their private vehicles, have taken to the streets of France from Marseille, to Paris, to Aubagne and elsewhere for a number of weekends sparking violence in demonstrations against the fuel tax hikes. There have been three deaths reported, statutes have been damaged, stores have been looted and cars torched. This past weekend, 130 people were injured and 412 arrested in protests.
This morning, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced a six-month suspension of the proposed fuel tax hikes with a view to bringing calm back to the streets of France. He said, according to France 24, "This violence must end." Commenting on the protests he exclaimed: "This anger, you'd have to be deaf or blind not to see it or hear it...The French who have donned yellow vests want taxes to drop, and work to pay. That's also what we want," he said of the French government.
The Prime Minister explained, as reported by France 24: "If I didn't manage to explain it, if the ruling majority didn't manage to convince the French, then something must change...No tax is worth putting the nation's unity in danger." Thus he announced the suspension of the proposed tax increases to accommodate dialogue.
Will the tax suspension bring calm back to France? Have protests aggravated a wider decent to reforms in France? Did Macron's government underestimate the current financial pain and consciousness of the meek in France?
The BBC-News reports that diesel fuel, popularly used in France, has increased 23% in the past 24-months - averaging US$1.71 a litre. January would have brought another increase of 6.5 cents per litre for diesel and 2.9 center for petrol. These cost of living increases contributed to the French protests amid a reported analysis that reforms would increase poverty among one-quarter of French households, would slightly drop or keep middle income at the same level, but would provide the best benefits to the top 1% of France's wealthiest.
France's intent and contention of raising fuel taxes as an environmental solution to continue the fight against climate change has to be tempered with other economic reforms that are tough upon the average French citizen.
Therefore, suspension of the fuel tax increases is a good step toward re-engaging the French people on the proposed pathways available to building a better environment, while promoting the livelihoods of all the French people.