Tax cuts and foreign doctors: Macron's wishlist to revive France

He also spoke - without giving much detail - of plans to lower food prices, boost the national birth rate… and of Gérard Depardieu

President Macron’s envisions tax cuts for the middle class and an easier path for foreign doctors to find work in France
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President Macron has presented plans for his remaining three years in office with key points including new tax cuts and solutions for medical deserts, the plummeting birthrate and schools.

The two-hour press conference was broadcast live on French television to nine million viewers on January 16. It comes at a pivotal moment during Mr Macron’s presidency, acting as a statement of intent for his final years.

His government recently saw its Immigration law veer to the political right as it passed through the senate, then struggle to pass through parliament, where his party lacks an absolute majority. It was finally forced through using Article 49.3.

Mr Macron will be president until 2027, but for many commentators, he is beginning to appear depleted of political vigour.

Read more: ‘No happy new year for French president chasing a place in history’

In this context, the appointment of the youngest prime minister in French history, Gabriel Attal, is something of a statement of intent for Mr Macron’s Renaissance party.

As if to deliberately drill home the message of rebirth, Mr Macron devoted much of his press conference to children and schools and to boosting the country’s low birthrate.

However, he also sought to reaffirm his party’s position as the defender of the middle class, promising them that tax cuts were on the way.

Key points of Mr Macron’s January 16 press conference:

  • Tax cuts: €2billion in tax cuts from 2025. “I asked my government to propose ways for the cuts to work for the middle class”.
  • Prices: “We will do all that we can to ensure that food prices go back down”. Mr Macron said that that was already happening for energy prices.
  • Medical deserts: The regularisation of foreign doctors is to be streamlined so as to make it easier for them to find work in France.
  • On the War in Ukraine: “We will not let Russia win, as this would cast doubt on the security of all of Europe and all states bordering Russia”
  • Crime: To continue to fight against drugs, Mr Macron proposes 10 major anti-drug operations every week.
  • Maternity leave: The currently system will change, with both parents to get more money over a shorter leave period.
  • National service: Likely an extension of the mandatory Defence and Citizenship Day.
  • Schools:
    • Uniforms to be tested in 2024, then introduced nationally from 2026.
    • More civic education classes
    • One hour of theatre classes from age 12 to 15
    • History of art classes from age 15 to 18
    • Graduation ceremonies for school leavers

Read more: France to launch large-scale trial of school uniforms

Mr Macron also revisited his recent remarks on Gérard Depardieu, whom he had said “makes France proud”, despite the actor’s overtly sexual comments directed towards a minor during a documentary, Complément d'Enquête, filmed in North Korea.

“I have no regrets for defending the presumption of innocence,” he said.

“If I had a regret it is in not saying just how significant the voice of women who are victims of violence can be, and just how important it is to me.”

How have rivals reacted?

Initial reactions on both sides of the political spectrum have been displeased. The left accuses Mr Macron of being reactionary, and the right says he offered too little substance.

Manuel Bompard, coordinator of La France Insoumise(left-wing): “Mr Macron listed reactionary talking points, repeated promises not kept and announced a new stage of social mistreatment. People will not see their wages rise. There will be no more carers or teachers. Electricity will still be expensive.”

Eric Ciotti, les Républicains(right-wing): “During a long and self satisfied speech, [Mr Macron] explained that after six and a half years everything is alright. We had not noticed! The president also presented his wishlist, which it is hard to argue with… People have given up listening to speeches: they want action and coherence”.

Marine Le Pen, Rassemblement Nationale(far-right): “No vision and no solutions to the essential problems. Neither the essence nor the tone were right for a President of the Republic.”

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