France's Emmanuel Macron offers tax cuts to workers

French president responds to months of 'yellow vests' protests, unveiling measures to boost pensions, reduce income tax.

    French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to cut taxes further and said the French would have to work more as he outlined his response to months of "Yellow Vest" protests.

    Thursday's move is the result of a three-month-long national debate, during which Macron rolled up his sleeves to discuss issues from taxes to local democracy and decaying shopping streets with mayors, students and hard-up workers.

    Macron said that he wanted a "significant" cut in income tax "for a maximum number of citizens and especially those who are working, the middle class".

    The initiative would be financed by closing loopholes, squeezing government spending, but the French would also have to work more, he said.

    He stuck to his guns on Thursday, however, about the bulk of reforms his government has already implemented.

    "I asked myself: Should we stop everything that was done over the past two years? Did we take a wrong turn? I believe quite the opposite," Macron told a news conference, the first of his presidency in the Elysee Palace.

    Macron's Tour De France: French PM visits protesters (2:34)

    He also said he wanted to make the parliament "more efficient".

    France's parliamentary election system currently is designed to give the winning party a strong majority, disadvantaging smaller parties.

    Macron said he wanted some of the seats in the lower house of Parliament, the National Assembly, to be filled through a proportional system.

    He said he also planned to make it easier for citizens to propose national referendums.

    'Yellow Vests'

    Al Jazeera's Natacha Butler, reporting from Paris, said the speech was aimed at convincing the population that he is listening.

    "During the Yellow Vest protests, a lot of the anger has been directed at Macron himself, who has become for some people a figure of the elite," she said.

    "This is the president who after all came to power as a political outsider. Yet, over the past two years, he hasn't managed to persuade people that he is a political outsider."

    Although the number of anti-government demonstrators has declined since a peak in November, protesters clashed with police for a 23rd straight week last Saturday.

    The protest movement erupted over planned diesel tax increases last November but morphed into a broader backlash against inequality and a political elite perceived as having lost touch with the common person.

    Macron, who swept to power promising to "transform France" and "make work pay", has seen his ambitious reform agenda derailed by the unrest.

    Pension and unemployment insurance reforms planned for 2019 have made little progress so far.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies