By Carolina McCabe
Rabat – In response to continuous protests led by the “Yellow Vests,” French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced the planned fuel tax increase will be delayed for a six-month period. The tax increase was previously set to begin January of 2019.
During the six-month delay, the government plans to discuss and assess alternative measures to assist the poor and middle-class, who rely heavily on their vehicles for daily activities. However, the suspension of fuel taxes has still not garnered the approval of the protesters. Protesters were disappointed in the government for merely postponing the fuel taxes instead of reversing the measure altogether .
“The protesters feel they have been ridiculed by Macron. So they’re saying: we’re not going to take our yellow vests off, we’re going to leave them on because in six months we’re going to be coming back again,” said FRANCE 24 French Affairs Editor Philip Turle.
Over the past three weeks, French protests have been responsible for over 4.5 million dollars in damage and lost tourism revenue. On the third weekend of protests, protesters turned violent with riot police being dispatched after businesses and vehicles were damaged.
Protesters are using the opportunity to demand greater changes than simply cancelling the tax, citing the economic struggles they have endured for years. They also seek an increase in the minimum wage and pensions.
“The French people want a complete political transformation. They want to change the way things have been for the last 30 years. We’re sick and tired of taxes being raised and the quality of public services going down,” said Benjamin Cauchy, one of the Yellow Vests. “We are not going to drop our guard,” he added, calling for another weekend of protests.
“Our demands are much bigger than this moratorium,’’ said Mr. Cauchy. ‘‘We want a better distribution of wealth, salary increases. It’s about the whole baguette, not just the crumbs.”
The suspension of the fuel tax will result in a loss of about $2.3 billion, and will have to be offset by corresponding spending cuts, a government source said.
I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protestors in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago. The Paris Agreement is fatally flawed because it raises the price of energy for responsible countries while whitewashing some of the worst polluters….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 4 décembre 2018
“If the events of recent days have shown us one thing, it’s that the French want neither an increase in taxes or new taxes. If the tax-take falls then spending must fall because we don’t want to pass our debts on to our children. And those debts are already sizeable,” Prime Minister Phillipe said.
President Trump took the opportunity to respond to the fuel-tax delay on Tuesday with a tweet.
Harm to the pursuit of combating climate change
The purpose of the fuel tax was to encourage French motorists to use electric vehicles in order to reduce the country’s environmental impact. However, environmentalists are concerned the protests and general anger towards the fuel-tax may inhibit the greater pursuit of a greener society.
While French protesters reject the fuel tax, the greater French population understands the detrimental impact of human activity on the climate. According to a study by the European Social Survey from 2017, about 94% of French citizens believe climate change is at least partly caused by human activity, with 73.7% believing the impacts will be bad.
“It is not by turning our backs on ecology that we will emerge from the political crisis we are experiencing,” said French political party Les Verts in a statement. “Ecology must not become the atoning victim of this government’s bad choices.”