The economic program of the French candidates holds the key to the election

PARIS – President Emmanuel Macron slammed through the crowd as he stopped campaigning in northern France last week, with an elderly voter facing him for protesting one of his most unpopular economic proposals: raising the retirement age from 62 to 65 to finance France’s national pension system.

“Retire at age 65, no, no!” The woman screamed, pressing a finger to Mr. Macron’s chest as he tried to calm her down. The exchange of views was caught on camera. Two hours later, he stepped back, saying he would consider lowering his age to 64. “I do not want to divide the country,” he said on French television.

Mr Macron’s overturning a key element of his economic platform in an industrial zone supporting the far-right firebrand Marine Le Pen ahead of next Sunday’s French presidential election is a reminder of the social anguish that dominates voters’ minds. She and Mrs. Le Pen have completely different perspectives on how to deal with these concerns.

As As they cross the country in a last-minute campaign whirlwind, their runoff will largely depend on the perception of the economy. Among the consequences of Russia’s war against Ukraine are concerns about economic insecurity and rising cost of living, security and competition before immigration.

Mrs Le Pen won the first round of voting last Sunday by a comfortable margin, losing all jobs to non-entrepreneurs, where she found visitors ready to pledge to strengthen purchasing power, create jobs through “intelligent” protectionism and shields from European policy. Has expanded globalization.

While Mr Macron is still expected to win a tough competition, workers in the volatile blue-collar castle can still prove a liability. Despite a strong recovery from the Covid lockdown in France – the economy is now growing at about 7 percent, and unemployment is down to a 10-year low of 7.4 percent – many feel that inequality has widened rather than shrunk, as he promised, Mr. Macron’s five Years later.

Following the fall of the traditional French left and right-wing parties in the first round of voting, both candidates are undecided and vying to woo voters who were attracted to their opponents – especially left-wing firebrand Jean-Luc Melanchos – Struggling to get them to apply.

In one case the pension point. Mr Macron has worked to restore his image as a president who supports France’s wealthy, business and white-collar voters as he sets out to re-evaluate the economy to increase competitiveness.

In 2019, he was forced to drop plans to raise the retirement age to 65 due to a nationwide strike to shut down most of France. He sought to streamline the complex system of public and private pension schemes in France in a state-run plan to close the deficit of 18 billion euros, or about 19 19 billion.

After his confrontation in northern France last week, Mr Macron insisted he would push back the retirement age increasingly – four months each year from next year – but he was open to discuss simplifying the plan at a later stage. .

“It’s not orthodoxy,” he said of the policy. “I need to hear what people are saying to me.”

Mrs Le Pen has accused Mr Macron of engaging in a policy of “social destruction” and of blowing the wind to capture votes, even though he removed the gears five years ago after the protectionist economic platform that he used to run businesses. He dropped plans to withdraw from the European Union and the eurozone.

Today, Mrs. Le Pen relinquishes the previous pressure to lower the current retirement age to 62 – although some workers engaged in intensive manual labor such as construction may retire at a younger age.

Mrs Le Pen seeks to rebrand her far-right National Rally Party as a kind, gentle party from the party she led in 2017, although with a clear anti-immigrant message, she has focused on economic issues close to blue-collar voters’ heart.

She One of the biggest issues in the campaign came out: the rising cost of living.

While Mr Macron was trying to establish a ceasefire in Ukraine, Mrs Le Pen visited France’s cities and rural areas, promising increased subsidies for vulnerable families.

He promised a 10 percent increase in France’s monthly minimum wage to 1,603 euros. He promised to reduce the sales tax on fuel, oil, gas and electricity from 20 percent to 5.5 percent and on 100 “essential” products. Employees under the age of 30 will be exempt from income tax and young couples will get interest-free housing loans.

His France-I policy expands further: for increased spending on social programs, he says he will cut billions upon billions of social spending on “foreigners.”

He has promised to create jobs and re-industrialize the country by giving priority to French companies for government contracts on foreign investors and has hung many expensive tax incentives to encourage French companies to return to France.

Although he has abandoned the so-called Frexit – the French exit from the European Union – some of his proposals for protecting the economy will amount to that, including a pledge to ignore some EU rules, including free trade. He says he will cut off some French payments on the block.

Mr Macron described such promises as “pure fantasy” and suggested that many of his business policies, including changes, be upheld.

Promising to lure jobs and investments, under his watch foreign companies poured billions of euros into industrial projects and research and development, creating thousands of new jobs, many in technology start-ups, in a country that has not easily embraced change. .

At the same time, he faces a challenge to tackle the image of an isolated president whose policies benefit the richest. The abolition of its wealth tax and the introduction of a 30 percent flat tax on capital gains have mainly boosted the income of the richest 0.1 percent. And increased the distribution of dividends according to the government’s own analysis.

Mr Macron has raised the minimum wage and made it easier for companies to hire workers, after growing wealth divisions helped start the Yellow West movement in 2019 and bring the struggling working class to the streets. The “purchasing power bonus” of up to 3,000 euros per year, excluding taxes, is a policy he promises to buff.

As inflation has risen recently, Mr Macron has approved billions of euros in energy bills and subsidies for gas pumps and has promised to pay pensions in the wake of rising inflation this summer. He swears New tax cuts for both family and business.

Its economic platform also aims at “full employment”, moving forward with multiple business reforms that have been tempting the support of Mediff, France’s largest employers’ organization.

“Emanuel Macron’s program is the most conducive to ensuring economic and employment growth,” the group said last week, adding that Miss Le Pen’s platform would “stabilize the country more than its neighbors and keep it on the sidelines of the European Union.”

For all the differences, there is one thing in common between the promises of Mr. Macron and Mrs. Le Pen: more government spending and less savings. According to Montagen, a French economic think tank, Mr Macron’s economic plan will exacerbate the deficit by 44 billion euros, while Miss Le Pen’s will expand it by 102 billion euros.

“These changes are significant enough that some of their proposals may not be implemented in practice – if they implement budget austerity measures that they are not talking about,” said Victor Poirier, director of publications at the Institute Montagen.

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