Castex says cash will be splashed on uniting France and refiring the economy
Newly-anointed French prime minister Jean Castex on Wednesday placed the fight against unemployment as his government’s priority for the remaining 18 months of Emmanuel Macron's term as president.
Castex, who replaced Edouard Philippe 12 days ago as Macron’s most senior minister, told French MPs he wanted to instil a sense of solidarity in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 30,000 lives in France.
“My first ambition - and it is a big one - is to bring together the many different sides of France. To weld them together and if necessary reeled them together.”
Castex unfurled his vision in the Assemblée nationale, a day after Macron pledged an additional 100 billion euros to help the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
The president also promised a referendum on a decision to write the fight to preserve the climate into the constitution.
The prime minister said the cash would come from the European Union and government borrowing.
“Our industries have grown weaker,” Castex said. “We are far too dependant on outside factors and we have no presence in certain strategic sectors. To correct that, we will make 40 million euros available.”
The cash, he told MPs, will be in the form of grants to businesses or loans which help firms revamp their internal technology systems.
Around seven billion euros, he said, would be spent on providing better insulation in schools and medical units. The same amount would be used to make other buildings more eco-friendly.
But the Castex plan failed to impress his political opponents. “There is no risk that I will support a government which continues to live in a state of denial and fails to understand what a lot of French people are going through,” said the Socialist party leader Olivier Faure.
“You basically can’t have any confidence in a government where it is more or less the same faces and it’s the same path as before,” added Damien Abad of Les Republicains.
However, Castex attempted to woo the youth vote. From September, students receiving special grants will only have to pay 1 euro for meals in university canteens.
There will also be more apprenticeship schemes offered to young people looking for their breaks in the world of work.
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