French PM suspends planned fuel tax increases for six-month period

Protesters angry about rising taxes clash with police in Paris, 81 arrested

"We have made propositions, maybe they aren't flawless". Let's talk about it. Let's improve them, complete them.

Rescinding the January increase - three euro cents for unleaded and six cents for diesel - was a core demand of the demonstrators, alongside a higher minimum wage and the return of a wealth tax on high-earners which was abolished a year ago.

Macron, a 40-year-old former investment banker and economy minister, came to office in mid-2017 promising to overhaul the French economy, revitalise growth and draw foreign investment by making the nation a more attractive place to do business. They should have withdrawn [the tax hikes] right away.

But in a warning to the public the Prime Minister said that: "if taxes fall, public spending must fall" adding that the government was not prepared to increase the level of the country's debt and leave it to the next generation to pay off. The protests in France began in early November.

The cost of the tax freezes is estimated at around 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion), according to the French finance ministry.

This is the third weekend of protests by "yellow jackets" due to the increase in fuel prices.

The French government suspended a fuel tax and utility hikes on Tuesday, a major U-turn in an effort to appease a protest movement that sparked large-scale rioting in Paris last weekend.

After three weeks of rising frustration, there was scant indication Philippe's measures would placate the "yellow vests", who themselves are struggling to find a unified position.

At the Spanish border, thousands of trucks were caught in tailbacks stretching almost 20 kilometers (30 miles) as the protesters blocked roads.




"Eventually he backed down, which is going to divide the (yellow vest) movement, but it also risks dividing his own political base", said Jerome Sainte-Marie of the PollingVox survey group. "The government has understood nothing, it's just playing for time.".

"(Violence) has nothing to do with the peaceful expression of a legitimate anger" and "no cause justifies" attacks on police or pillaging stores and burning buildings, Macron said.

"French people need to be heard again, and for that we must organize a referendum to decide these issues".

Macron's approval rating fell to 23 percent in the poll conducted late last week, down six points on the previous month. Philippe was at 26 percent. Some hardliners are even calling for the government to resign and new elections to be held.

The protesters, vivid televised images of whom have been shown worldwide, have defaced the Arc de Triomphe, burned hundreds of cars and blocked roads and fuel depots.

The protests are expanding. High school students, ambulance drivers, and farmers are demonstrating over unrelated demands - all in opposition to Macron's policies, which are seen as too favorable to businesses and the wealthy.

"If another day of protests takes place on Saturday, it should be authorised and should take place in calm", he said.

By Sunday, some of the most popular tourist streets in Paris were littered with torched cars and broken glass from looted shops and the Arc de Triomphe monument was tagged with graffiti.

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