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Macron walks back on a pledge to end ‘exit tax’ on high earners

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PARIS: France will keep a less restrictive version of its “exit tax” on wealthy people who take assets out of the country, and not completely scrap it as President Emmanuel Macron pledged earlier this year.
The 30 percent levy was introduced by former president Nicolas Sarkozy to keep top earnings from leaving France for countries with lower tax rates.
But Macron said in May he would abolish the tax as part of a push to make the country more attractive to investors, which critics say has led to fiscal relief for the wealthiest along with other policies that make him the “president of the rich”.
“People are free to invest where they want. If you want to get married, you should not explain to your partner, ‘If you marry me, you will not be free to divorce,'” Macron told Forbes magazine.
A finance ministry spokesman confirmed to AFP on Saturday that the tax would be kept as part of the 2019 budget plan to be presented later this month, following a report by French financial daily Les Echos.
However, the tax will now be levied only if assets are sold within two years of a person’s leaving France, instead of 15 years currently.
It applies to people who have been in the country at least six years and have stocks or bonds worth more than 800,000 euros ($930,000), or who own at least 50 percent of a company that moved out of France.
The tax is “a bureaucratic headache for taxpayers” because they have to provide guarantees and file annual declarations for years after leaving the country, the ministry spokesman said.

Relevant piece: French President Emmanuel Macron was facing fresh criticism Sunday after telling an aspiring gardener that he could easily find a job if he would simply start looking in high-demand sectors like restaurants or construction.
In a video doing the rounds on social media, Macron is seen talking with the young man during a public open house at the Elysee Palace on Saturday, part of the country’s Heritage Days.
“I’m 25 years old, I send resumes and cover letters, they don’t lead to anything,” he tells the president.
“If you’re willing and motivated, in hotels, cafes, and restaurants, construction, there’s not a single place I go where they don’t say they’re looking for people. Not one – it’s true!” Macron replies.
He suggests going to the Montparnasse neighbourhood, an area chock full of cafes and restaurants, assuring him he would easily find work.
“If I crossed the street I’d find you one,” he says.
“So go ahead,” he adds, to which the man replies, “Understood, thank you” as they shake hands.
Industry officials say there are some 100,000 hotel and restaurant jobs that need filling in France, and have called on Macron to regularise more illegal immigrants to cover the shortage.
Yet critics quickly took to Twitter to deride the advice from the president, a former investment banker who has struggled to shake off a reputation as “president of the rich”.
“Completely disconnected from the reality of the French,” one user wrote. “How can someone show that much contempt, lack of empathy and ignorance in just 30 seconds?” asked another.
Christophe Castaner, the head of Macron’s Republic on the Move party, rejected accusations that Macron had “poorly treated the unemployed”.
“Is what the president said false? If you go to the Montparnasse area, you won’t find that they need workers?” he said in a television interview Sunday.
“You would prefer empty words?” he continued. “I prefer a president who says the truth.”
It was the not the first time Macron has found himself in hot water after appearing to dismiss the concerns of ordinary people while he pushes reforms aimed at shoring up economic growth.
He once called opponents to his reforms “slackers”, and criticised union protesters for “stirring up trouble” instead of finding new jobs.
His poll ratings have slumped to their lowest levels since his election in May 2017, as tax cuts intended to spur spending, mainly for companies and higher earners, have yet to bear much fruit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Europe

Russia fails to block chemical arms body’s new powers

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THE HAGUE” Russia failed on Tuesday in its bid to stall the global chemical warfare watchdog’s controversial new power to apportion blame for attacks like those in Syria.
After a bitter war of words, states approved the 2019 budget for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which includes funding for the new role.
They also shot down a proposal by Russia and China to set up an “expert group” which the West said would have effectively blocked the new powers.
In June the OPCW approved a British-backed move to allow the body to attribute blame for chemical attacks. Previously it could only confirm whether or not toxic arms had been used.
“A clear majority against an attempt to wreck the historic June decision,” British ambassador to the OPCW Peter Wilson said on Twitter. “An overwhelming result, which clearly says #NoToChemicalWeapons.”
Applause broke out at the meeting in The Hague after member states voted 99 to 27 in favor of the 2019 budget.
It was the first time the OPCW had ever voted on the budget, after Russia and Iran, which both oppose the new attribution powers, insisted on a vote.
The OPCW also voted 82-30 against Russia’s joint plan with China to set up an “open-ended” group to scrutinize how the new powers would work.
Iran, Syria, Pakistan, South Africa, Palestine, and Cuba were among those that backed Russia.
The West pushed through the new blaming powers after a string of chemical incidents in Syria, as well as a nerve agent attack on Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal in the British city of Salisbury in March.
The OPCW says it aims to set up a team early next year that could attribute blame for all chemical attacks in Syria since 2013.
It will also be allowed to point the finger for attacks elsewhere if asked to by the country where the incident happened.
Britain and the United States had accused their rivals of trying to effectively reverse the earlier change to the watchdog’s rules.
Russia and the West traded bitter accusations of lying and hypocrisy on Monday as the OPCW debated the issue.
Russian envoy Alexander Shulgin said Western claims of chemical weapons use by Damascus and Moscow were “out and out lies” and said the new powers were “illegitimate”.
US Ambassador Kenneth Ward, however, accused Russia of “pungent hypocrisy” and warned against allowing a “new era of chemical weapons use to take hold.”
The meeting also took place under the shadow of the expulsion of four Russians accused by Dutch authorities of trying to hack into the OPCW’s computer system in April.
The alleged Russian agents from the GRU military intelligence agency used electronic equipment hidden in a car parked outside a nearby hotel, the Netherlands said.
At the time the organization was investigating the attack on Skripal as well as a major chemical attack in Syria. The spying incident is not on this meeting’s agenda, however.
Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, the OPCW was set up by the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention under which almost every country in the world pledged to give up toxic arms.
The OPCW says it has overseen the destruction of 96.5 percent of the world’s chemical arms stocks.

 

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Economy

EasyJet logs soaring annual profit

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LONDON: EasyJet’s annual net profit jumped by almost a fifth on strong sales and record passenger numbers, the British no-frills airline announced today. 
Profits after taxation jumped 17 percent to £385 million ($460 million, 400 million euros) in the 12 months to September, EasyJet said in a statement. The total number of passengers rose 10.2 percent to a record high of 88.5 million. Pre-tax profit surged 41.4 percent to £578 million, as revenues rose 17 percent to £5.9 billion. The carrier made a smaller-than-expected loss on its purchase of Berlin’s Tegel Airport from bankrupt German carrier Air Berlin. “EasyJet has delivered a great performance during the year,” said chief executive Johan Lundgren, who has been in the job since last December.
“Our financial success and increasing customer loyalty demonstrate the resilience of our operations, the underlying strength of our business and our unrivaled customer experience,” EasyJet added that it was continuing to prepare for Brexit, operating via three airline divisions based in Austria, Britain, and Switzerland, in order to be able to continue flying in Europe.
It expressed confidence that flying rights would continue as normal despite turbulence over Brexit talks. “Both the EU and the UK have said that their objective is to maintain flights between the EU and the UK, whatever the Brexit outcome,” the group said. “This gives EasyJet confidence that flying rights will be maintained, and it continues to work with EU institutions, EU member states, and the UK to ensure that this is achieved.”

 

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Economy

France: Yellow Vest protests persist

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PARIS: Protesters angry over high fuel prices blocked access to French fuel depots and stopped traffic on major roads Monday, incensed by the government’s refusal to scrap anti-pollution taxes.
One person was accidentally killed and 511 people injured, 17 seriously, during three days of “Yellow Vest” protests that have galvanized resistance to President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies.
On Monday, tens of thousands of demonstrators were still manning hundreds of barricades on motorways and petrol stations, down from nearly 300,000 protesters at over 2,000 sites on Saturday.
Oil giant Total confirmed that some of its trucks had been prevented from reaching depots in the south and east of the country, causing alarm among small business owners.
“The worst thing would be to block the economy and make the whole situation worse,” Alain Griset, head of the U2P federation of small and medium-sized businesses said in a statement.
On Monday, security forces cleared protesters from several sites, including a suspension bridge leading to the south-western city of Bordeaux that had been blocked for three days.
The “Yellow Vest” movement — named after the high-visibility vests motorists are required to carry in their cars — was sparked by rising diesel prices, which many blame on taxes implemented in recent years as part of France’s anti-pollution fight.
It quickly snowballed into a protest by rural and small-town France over falling spending power of the less well-off under President Emmanuel Macron, assailed as a “president of the rich.”
“It’s about much more than fuel. They (the government) have left us with nothing,” Dominique, a 50-year-old unemployed technician told AFP at a roadblock in the town of Martigues, near the southern city of Marseille.
Macron’s government, which is trying to buff its environmental credentials, has vowed not to back down on trying to wean people off their cars through fuel taxes.
Speaking during a visit to China Environment Minister Francois de Rugy ruled out canceling planned increases on hydrocarbons “at the first sign of difficulty”.
While the number of protesters has fallen since the weekend, in tandem with plummeting temperatures, further large-scale demonstrations are planned.
Two separate calls for mass protests in Paris on November 24 were widely circulated on social media.
The start of the protests was marred by the death of a 63-year-old demonstrator, who was run down by a panicked motorist at a roadblock in the eastern Savoie region.
Several other people were injured in attempts by truck drivers and motorists to force their way through barricades.

 

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