French press review 27 August 2018

President Macron's government vows to draft belt-tightening budget, despite slow growth and biting effects of reforms on pensioners and struggling families.


The tight budget options facing President Emmanuel Macron's government after the cabinet's downward revision of growth forecast for 2019, is the one single issue dominating the front pages this Monday.

This is after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe promised to maintain the pace of painful reforms, despite the fact that the French economy expanded just 0.2 percent in the first and second quarters, compared with 0.7 percent growth in the last three months of the 2017.

Philippe clarified the government's policy to build the 2019 budget with a lower growth forecast in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche.

L'Est Républicain highlights the premier's choices to compensate the slowing economic growth with a 0.3 percent increase in social security benefits next year, well below current inflation rates.

The newspaper reports that among the schemes, which will remain almost frozen in 2019, are retirement benefits on top of the 1.7 percent increase in the Social General Contributions tax this year. In its view, this constitutes a breach of trust between the government and its electorate.

According to the regional paper, the government's unveiling of the unpopular measure is a risky gamble based on the assumption that opposition parties are too weak to mobilize public opinion.

But L’Est Républicain warns that there are real political risks to continue nibbling the revenue of unprivileged social categories which carry substantial electoral weight. 

For Les Echos, by giving pride of place to social welfare and purchasing power such as exempting supplementary working hours from taxes, Emmanuel Macron appears to be making the little step towards the left, which his electorate has been clamouring for.

However the paper warns that by not reigning in on the deficit and targeting pensioners Macron is opening a battle ground for confrontation with conservative voters, with crucial European elections just seven months away.

Libération denounces the government's cutting blade on pensioners describing it as a grave error which will end up rallying the opposition to close ranks and vent their anger about the social frustrations all French citizens identify with.

L'Humanité for its part mocks Prime Minister Edouard Philippe for choosing le Journal du Dimanche branded by the Communist daily as a billionaires' newspaper to announce the painful measures rolled out against pensioners who allegedly spent their lives contributing.

L’Humanité holds that students, families, some single parents and beneficiaries of subsidizes homes,  unemployed as a result of Macron’s policies will be the direct victims of the austerity .

According to Le Figaro while there may be many reasons to criticize Macron's Presidency, any charges that his economic policies lack consistency are likely to fall flat.

The conservative daily holds that the guidelines of the 2019 budget contrast with the disastrous zig-zigging of the previous Socialist administration that allegedly sapped consumer confidence, growth and job creation.

Macron it argues is right to give priority to enterprise and work in his drive to make the economy competitive again.

Le Figaro encourages the President to move quickly and transform the erstwhile Tax Credit for Competitiveness and Jobs scheme into more concrete cost-lowering measures.

It also encourages the goverment to scrap overtime employee contributions, unemployment insurance, effect drastic cuts in subsidized jobs and revise the conditions governing departure on sick leave.

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