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    French riot police apprehend a protester wearing a yellow vest, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, during clashes on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France, November 24, 2018. Picture taken November 24, 2018

    ‘It’s Not So Much About Fuel Taxes, More Their Own Buying Power’ – Writer

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    The French government has announced that it will drop fuel tax rises from next year’s budget; the measure was set to be taken if the French government felt that narrowing down the tax to lucrative property deals and real estate assets was not working.

    Earlier, the French government suggested holding a debate in both chambers of parliament following two weeks of protests. Nearly 40,000 people took to the streets last week. Police in Paris repeatedly used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds.

    Sputnik discussed the protests in France with Salil Sarkar, a journalist and writer based in Paris.

    Sputnik: Can you, please, tell us what the situation is, as far as the protests? Are there additional protests that are planned for the weekend? What can we expect from this protest movement further?

    Salil Sarkar: It's not exactly clear how many protests there are going to be this weekend or in the future, but there are going to be protests because most people are still very much angry. It's not much about the fuel taxes; it's more about their own buying power. There's a lot of anger in this country now.

    Sputnik: The government has made this decision to freeze fuel prices next year; does this seem to point to the fact that there will be some other concessions made in government policy?

    Salil Sarkar: I'm not so sure. Basically, those so-called fuel protests were a trigger for a movement that was venting anger over a whole lot of other things, mainly consumer buying power, questions of people having to pay more taxes or getting smaller salaries; this is a country where the productivity level is pretty high; it's one of the most developed countries in the world. Whether these fuel prices over diesel fuel are going to satisfy most people is hardly likely.

    Sputnik: What are the main demands right now? You said that people are concerned about their buying power; that could be due to inflation. What are the causes of people being disgruntled?

    Salil Sarkar: The basic causes are consumer buying power and the living and working conditions. There're no specific demands for it. The unions are asking for a sizeable hike in the minimum salary.

    READ MORE: French Finance Minister Confirms Fuel Tax to Remain Unchanged in 2019

    That's not necessarily [inaudible] everybody, but most people seem to agree with that.

    Sputnik: Basically, there's an overall consensus among those who are demonstrating that they want to see salary increases. What is the minimum wage right now?

    Salil Sarkar: It's about €1,500, which when you take about €200-300 off, that's about the minimum wage. CGT, the main trade union, wants the gross minimum wage to grow up to €1,800 per month, which would bring the actual take-home pay to about €1,500-1,600 — which is a sizeable hike by the way. There's no real consensus about that, but there might be.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Salil Sarkar and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.


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