French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire Thursday confirmed that planned fuel-tax hikes for 2019 have been abandoned and not just postponed, but road blocks continued around France.
“There will not be any new taxes on fuel in 2019 and I think that is a major calming gesture,” Le Maire said on France 2 television. The government had initially said the tax hikes had been suspended for the first half of 2019, before indicating late Wednesday they had been cancelled.
So-called “Yellow Vests” interviewed at road blocks said the protests would go on because the government hasn’t met their other demands. Paris police are being reinforced ahead of a planned protest in the French capital Saturday to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s violence.
In other developments:
– Some Macron opponents are calling for people not to protest Saturday. Guillaume Larrive, a deputy from The Republicans party which has tried to piggyback on the Yellow Vests movement, said in a tweet that “to preserve civil peace and save lives” protesters shouldn’t go to Paris. Laurent Wauquiez, head of The Republicans who has joined Yellow Vests protests, said he welcomed the government’s gesture and condemned Saturday’s violence but stopped short of telling people not to stay away from Paris.
– Ministers have ruled out a return of France’s wealth tax, one of the demands of the Yellow Vests. Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux had suggested Wednesday that last year’s decision to abolish the wealth tax could be reviewed, but that was ruled out Thursday by Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Budget Minister Gerard Darmanin.
– The chief executive of EDF said the utility hadn’t been informed of the government’s decision to freeze electricity prices in 2019 and that it will eventually have to be compensated for the lost revenue. “At some point, it will be necessary to do the accounts and have the price of electricity be reflected in the bills,” Jean-Bernard Levy said in interview on RTL radio.
– Macron will finally speak publicly about the Yellow Vests “when it’s useful to bring calm,” Marc Fesnau, minister for relations with parliament, said Thursday on LCI television. Macron hasn’t spoken in public since returning Sunday from the G-20 in Argentina, leaving it up to Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to make the government’s announcements.
(c) 2018, Bloomberg · Gregory Viscusi