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French lower house approves €110 billion emergency budget

The French National Assembly on April 18, 2020 approved an emergency budget to help tackle the coronavirus crisis.
The French National Assembly on April 18, 2020 approved an emergency budget to help tackle the coronavirus crisis. THOMAS COEX POOL/AFP

Reacting to an "economic emergency" due to the coronavirus pandemic and concomitant lockdown measures, the French National Assembly in an overnight vote late Friday into early Saturday approved a €110 billion emergency budget. The Senate is expected to vote on the budget bill Tuesday.

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In a second financial amendment bill since the coronavirus crisis began, the French lower house approved a €110 billion budget plan, which includes bonuses for medical staff, funds to help struggling workers and families, and aid to businesses including strategic industries such as aviation and car manufacturing.

Members of the centre-right Republican Party and the Socialist Party, both in opposition, approved the text – unlike France’s far-left Communist and France Unbowed parties.

Blank cheque or strings attached?

French political parties are divided on generating revenues to finance the new package, with the left and far-right parties calling for the restoration of a solidarity wealth tax to make the richest contribute, while the government opposes any tax hikes at this stage.

Another bone of contention is the €20 billion “recapitalisation” plan to help companies hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in the aviation and automobile sectors. Opposition groups have asked for further clarifications and environmental groups are denouncing "a cheque to big polluters", with no conditions attached.

"It will not be a blank cheque," French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire promised parliament, adding that any capital increases or likely temporary nationalisation measures would be “competitive" and based on "an ambitious environmental policy".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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