France will give 'middle-class' people €100 for fuel amid price rises

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France's prime minister Jean Castex looks on as he takes part in the news broadcast of French TV channel TF1 - AFP
France's prime minister Jean Castex looks on as he takes part in the news broadcast of French TV channel TF1 - AFP

The French government is to hand out a €100 payment to 38 million members of the “middle class” earning less than €2,000 per month to help them deal with rising energy and fuel prices, amid fears of “yellow vest” style protests.

The issue of fuel prices is seen as potentially explosive in France as it helped spark the anti-government “gilet jaunes” protests in 2018 that rocked Emmanuel Macron’s government.

Purchasing power is the most pressing concern of the French, way above Covid and immigration, recent polls suggest.

Last weekend, small protests were held in some rural areas and small towns – the heartland of "yellow vest" unrest – sending an ominous signal to the government.

"We are opting for a kind of inflation-indemnity of €100 ... which will be paid to French people – it's a sort of a middle class-indemnity," prime minister Jean Castex told TV station TF1 on Thursday night.

This will affect some 38 million people, he said, adding that "petrol prices will be frozen for the whole of 2022".

France is far from alone at being been hit by a surge in oil and gas prices since the middle of the year caused by a spike in global demand and supply shortages.

But Mr Macron has more cause for concern than most leaders, given the violence of the yellow vest revolt over a green tax on fuel seen as punitive by swathes of low-income workers - many of whom were pushed to live outside major cities due to house prices.

The rises come just six months ahead of presidential elections in which Mr Macron is expected to run for a second term. He had been hoping to trumpet job creation and tax cuts as key re-election arguments.

"We obviously want to protect French people, above all those people who work hard and are taking the full force of these price rises," said government spokesman Gabriel Attal.

Average diesel prices hit an all-time record last week while petrol neared a 10-year high.

Eight out of 10 households have a vehicle, according to official statistics.

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