What You Missed in March

Photo: Eleni Zaras

Photo: Eleni Zaras

The end of diesel? Debate around car industry (March 3)

French ministers are debating raising taxes on diesel.  The 18 cent difference between a liter of gas and diesel—and World Health Organization reports about the carcinogenic effects of diesel—have deterred the government from wanting to continue support of the industry.  The projected 7 billion euro tax revenue increase is also attractive.  The government hopes to stave off refineries’ surplus problems, equalize the price, and decrease pollution, but still to find a way to make the deal attractive to auto industries and laborers.

Swiss Referendum Bans Golden Parachutes, Ayrault reacts (March 3)

On March 3, the Swiss passed a referendum to ban “golden parachute” agreements in order to limit the benefits given to executives who leave a company or who lose their jobs in the case of a takeover. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault commended the ban and affirmed his desire to follow suit. While he has already put in place a limit of 450,000 euros on payments in the public sector, but there is nothing concrete to suggest that any prodding of the private business sector would be successful.

Guérini Faces Trial for Embezzlement (March 5)

Jean-Noël Guérini, senator and President of the General Council of the Bouches-du-Rhône département, was indicted for embezzlement of public funds.  Jean-David Ciot, a former cabinet member of the General Council, received 22,000 euros in compensation for his dismissal in 2011 and what Guerini called a “termination transaction” is suspected to have been part of a larger plan concerning his 2012 legislative campaign.

Mayor Tiberi and his Wife Sentenced to Prison (March 12)

Tuesday March 12, Jean Tiberi, mayor of the 5th arrondissement of Paris, was sentenced to ten months in prison, received a 10,000 euro fine, and has been barred for three years from office after rigging elections.  His wife Xavière received a nine-month sentence, a fine of 5,000 euros, and cannot vote for two years. Tiberi had held office as mayor of the 5th arrondissement since 1983, but in 1997 it was suspected that he included 800 fake voters and questions of the validity of his elections have since been raised.

Agreement on Complementary Pensions Reached (March 14)

French labor unions and private-sector businesses came to an agreement to reduce deficits in the pension system by 3.1 billion euros by 2017.  The plan would require slowing increases, below the rate of inflation, in pensions to private sector workers. It would also contribute 0.1 percent more to the system this year and next from 18 million employees.  But the agreement was considered a much-needed step in reducing deficits, and it reflects a larger effort taken by the government to tackle the deficit without raising the retirement age.

Family benefit cuts proposition raises scandal (March 19)

Gérard Bapt of the Socialist (PS) party and Rapporteur proposed a plan to save 3 billion euros for the familiy benefits branch of social security by cutting in half the benefits granted to wealthier families.  The plan would restrict allowances to 53,000 euros for a family with two children and 61,000 for a family with three. It would also stop granting aide for child support at home. Bapt has been challenged to defend the but stands by his claim that “we are not questioning the principle of universality” since aide is not all-together being taken away completely from any bracket.

Motion of No Confidence in Parliament (March 20)

In light of French former budget minister Cahuzac’s tax fraud scandal, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) put forward a vote of no confidence in the National Assembly Wednesday, March 20.  In the Socialist-dominated assembly, the vote did not have much hope for going through, but symbolically the motion reflects the growing dissatisfaction with Hollande’s government and his handling of the economic crisis.

Buffet Admits to Enforcing More Lenient Doping Regulations (March 21)

On March 21, former Sports Minister Marie-George Buffet admitted to being pushed both before the 1998 World Cup and before the 2008 summer Olympics to be more lenient in enforcing the French anti-doping laws. She faced criticism for calling for a surprise test for the 1998 French team in the World Cup and further testified that Hein Verbruggen and other members of the International Olympic Committee heavily pressured her to be lax about the laws if Paris wanted to host the summer games in 2008.

Parisot unable to pursue 3rd term in MEDEF (March 28)

Laurence Parisot, president of the MEDEF employers’ union, attempted to run for a third term, but her plans narrowly failed in a vote Thursday March 28.  The votes of the Executive Council added up to to 22 for her, 22 against her, and one blank vote. Parisot had hoped to continue her work, negotiating with labor unions to push for labor reforms that would better France’s competitive economic position, but her request to bend the rules were deemed undemocratic.

Record high for French debt (March 29)

INSEE (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies) published statistical reports for 2012 last Friday, showing that French debt rose to 90.2% of GDP, up from 85.8% in 2011. The deficit reported is 4.8%, down from 5.3% from 2011, but still 0.3% higher than the target. The report was released just after Hollande’s appearance on television and will likely not serve to build hope in his promises that he is capable of mending the economy.

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