Prime Minister Edouard Philippe suspends fuel tax rises

Fuel tax rises which have led to weeks of violent protests in France have now been postponed for six months

The
The "yellow vests" are so called because they have taken to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow clothing that is required to be carried in every vehicle by French law

Fuel tax rises which have led to weeks of violent protests in France have now been postponed for six months.

The move was announced in a televised address by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who said anyone would have "to be deaf or blind" not to hear or see the anger.

The protests have hit major cities, causing damage and disruption over the past three weekends.

The "gilets jaunes," protests have now grown to reflect more widespread anger at the government.

The "yellow vests" are so called because they have taken to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow clothing that is required to be carried in every vehicle by French law.

President Emmanuel Macron was elected last year with an overwhelming mandate for sweeping economic reform, but his popularity has fallen sharply in recent months amid accusations that he is a "president for the rich".

Four people have died since the unrest began and the resulting violence and vandalism have been widely condemned.

Philippe said that the next planned rise in the so-called carbon tax on vehicle fuel, which had been due to come in on 1 January, would be suspended for six months to allow consultations across the country to see what accompanying measures might be introduced to ease the burden for the worst-off.

He also said planned increases in gas and electricity prices this winter would be halted, and that a toughening of the rules for vehicle emissions tests would also be postponed.

It is a major climbdown by the government of President Macron, who has said the measures are necessary to combat climate change and meet budget deficit reduction targets.

Macron was elected on a platform of economic reform which would improve the lives of French people via lower unemployment and a kick-started economy.

But many feel that has not emerged. An analysis of the 2018-19 budget carried out by France's public policy institute, for example, found that incomes for the poorest quarter of households would largely drop or stay the same under the plans.

Middle-income earners would see a modest bump - but the greatest beneficiaries would be those who were already wealthy, in the top 1%. The pattern is worse for retired people - almost all of whom will be worse off.

The first question is whether the concession will be enough to satisfy the protesters.

Some have vowed to keep up a blockade at an oil depot in Lorient in the north-west of the country, and there have been calls for further demonstrations on Saturday.

Yellow vest spokesman Benjamin Cauchy said the movement wanted a cancellation, not a postponement, of the taxes.

"The measures announced today do not satisfy us at all, for the simple reason they don't go far enough," he told reporter Chris Bockman in Toulouse.

"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. There are more and more people out there who can't make ends meet each month, more and more people are sleeping rough and yet we continue to raise taxes.

"Where is the money going? Where is it being used?"

Fears that violent protests in the capital could continue next weekend have led Paris St Germain to postpone their League 1 home football match on Saturday.

More in World