What economic policies are the French presidential candidates proposing?

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Economic policy took a back seat in a French presidential campaign initially focused on cultural and identity issues, then eclipsed by the war in Ukraine. But as the country prepares for the first round on April 10, different candidates are offering different visions of France’s economic future.

The French economy carried out better than expected after the calamitous effects of the Covid crisis, with growth of 7% in 2021 – higher than Germany, Italy and Spain. Unemployment fell to 7.4% in the fourth quarter of 2021, its lowest rate since 2008.

But despite President Emmanuel Macron’s “whatever it takes” approach – devoting as many resources as needed to deal with the fallout from Covid – France’s public debt remains substantial, at 112.9% of GDP in 2021 (although down from 115.7% in 2020), according to INSEE. France was the single country in Europe to see public spending exceed 60% of GDP in 2020.

FRANCE 24 returns to what all the candidates are proposing on the economy.

Centrist

Emmanuel Macron has moved to the right on cultural issues since entering the Élysée in 2017, alongside the center of the French electorate. But in terms of economic policy, he remains faithful to the at the same time (“at the same time”) approach to the heart of his initial presidential campaign, keeping a foothold on both the center-right and the center-left.

The holder and favorite wants to renew the manager (interventionist) approach that Charles de Gaulle used in the 1960s for the fourth industrial revolution – proposing to inject 30 billion euros into high-tech industries, including semiconductors, space exploration and the sciences of the life.

Macron is once again leaning into protectionist policies – much like those favored by his main electoral rival, the nationalist-populist Marine Le Pen – and is looking for a way to force the state to buy French products, although he is not not clear how it would bypass the EU. restrictive state aid laws.

At the same time, Macron wants to increase the inheritance tax threshold from €100,000 to €150,000 while widening the application of the threshold to indirect relatives of the deceased, such as nephews, nieces and stepchildren.

As a social liberal, Macron also wants to recognize “how families have changed” by giving couples who live together the same tax status as married or PACS couples.

Conservative

Valerie Pécresse, a candidate for the traditional conservative Les Républicains (Les Républicains or LR) party, has based much of her campaign around the accusation that Macron is a “pale imitation” of a centre-right leader. As such, she hopes to go further than Macron in economic liberalism, proposing to get rid of the famous 35-hour working week in France in branch agreements between business groups and unions. Pécresse wants to cut 150,000 jobs in the public service and abolish the “social solidarity” contributions from companies – which she considers an “absurd” tax which harms the competitiveness of companies. She also wants to reduce VAT on electricity, housing and cultural goods.

Pécresse wants to go beyond the LR bourgeois basic support base with a proposal to guarantee a 10% increase in net pay for people earning less than €2,800 a month over the next five years.

Far right

Anxious to attract LR voters who are members of what he calls the “patriotic bourgeoisie“, far-right expert turned candidate Eric Zemmour wants to prove its credentials as an economic liberal, by proposing a 15% tax cut for small businesses, artisans and farmers. He also wants to reduce inheritance tax, abolish the family business transfer tax entirely and allow people to transfer assets to relatives tax-free. Zemmour also proposes to exempt principal residences from property tax and to abolish the annual television license fee.

But the far-right candidate also has a protectionist streak, calling for the “full refund” of all state subsidies given to companies that outsource jobs. He also wants low-wage workers to receive a 13th month’s salary, funding it by reducing national insurance contributions.

Targeting a grassroots working-class vote, the nationalist-populist leader of the Rassemblement national (National Rally) Marine Le Pen has a more state-run economic platform than its far-right rival. It wants to intervene to fix prices, grant subsidies to support failing sectors of the economy and create a French sovereign wealth fund to invest in strategic sectors.

Le Pen is also in favor of replacing the current property tax with a wealth tax aimed at the wealthy, completely exempting principal residences. Anxious to attract young voters, Le Pen wants to abolish income tax for employees under 30 “so that they stay in France and start a family here”.

Le Pen’s nationalist-populist rival Nicolas Dupont-Aignan de Debout la France (Stand Up France) is also turning to court officers with the promise of an 8% salary increase for all. He also proposed to expand the role of employees in the management of companies and to restore the wealth tax abolished by Macron.

Left and extreme left

The most popular candidate on France’s faltering left and Le Pen’s biggest rival in the battle for a second-round ticket, leader of La France Insoumise (France Insoumise) Jean-Luc Melenchon hopes to pass a “social emergency law” as soon as possible after he takes office, raising the minimum wage to €1,400 per month (from €1,269.03 currently) and capping the wage gap between workers and workers. PDG at 1 to 20.

He also wants to give a permanent mandate to 800,000 public sector workers on temporary contracts – while preventing the main companies listed on the French stock exchange, the CAC 40, from paying dividends.

Additionally, Mélenchon wants to bring capital gains tax down to the same level as income tax, implement a progressive corporation tax, and seize all inheritances over 12 million euros (a measure of dubious constitutionality).

The once venerable Socialist Party is now a shadow of its former self, having lost votes to Macron in the center as well as Mélenchon on the far left in 2017. The party’s candidate, the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgonevertheless proposes an ambitious economic program aimed at raising the minimum wage by 15%, hiring tens of thousands of civil servants and creating a new wealth tax which it says will raise 4 billion euros to be devoted to the ecological transition.

Hidalgo also wants to institute an endowment of €5,000 for people who reach the age of 18 to spend on professional or private projects.

Like many of his presidential rivals, Hidalgo wants to reduce inheritance tax, exempting all fortunes below €300,000 – which would ensure that 95% of the population would pay nothing.

leftist rival of Hidalgo, Yannick Jadot of the Green Party, wants to raise the minimum wage by 10% and reduce working hours. Jadot advocates a universal basic income, paid to everyone from the age of 18, and recruiting more than 200,000 new public sector employees.

Jadot is also in favor of increasing the VAT on energy to encourage behavior that is more respectful of the environment. As the French Greens have so far enjoyed little appeal outside of urban areas, Jadot is trying to reach rural voters by offering financial incentives to pass on family farms to relatives.

Betting that Hidalgo and Jadot have little appeal for the French working class, communist candidate Fabien Roussel stood out as a throwback to the post-war left, hoping to appeal to a nostalgic nation. Roussel proposes to create 500,000 new civil service positions, increase civil service salaries by 30% and equalize salaries between men and women and employers in the private and public sectors within a year .

far-left candidate Nathalie Arthaud of the communist Lutte Ouvrière party wants to abolish VAT, end “banking secrecy”, exonerate workers from “fuel taxes” and expropriate the entire wealth of the wealthy and corporate profits.

Arthaud’s far-left colleague, Philippe Poutou, wants to nationalize energy and pharmaceutical companies, create a million public sector jobs and raise all incomes by €400.

Nationalization is also on the agenda for Jean Lassalle, leader of the small Resistance! (Resist!) Party. Former acolyte of the eternal centrist candidate François Bayrou, the ruralist Lassalle proposes a “new Marshall plan” to revitalize the countryside and exempt companies located in localities of less than 15,000 inhabitants from company and property taxes.

This article has been translated from the original in French.

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