Emmanuel Macron is cushioning the energy price shock in a very French way: 38 million of his compatriots receive a one-off payment of 100 euros, most of them shortly before Christmas.

It should be transferred directly to the bank account, "no application is necessary", as Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday evening news.

It was visibly difficult for the head of government to find a suitable term for the special gift, he switched between “inflation compensation” and “compensation for the middle class”.

All French people with a net salary of less than 2000 euros per month should receive the 100 euros.

They also get the money if they don't have a driver's license or a car.

Michaela Wiegel

Political correspondent based in Paris.

  • Follow I follow

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal announced on Friday that around 1.7 million of the 2.7 million French students would also receive the money.

The 100 euros do not have to be taxed.

The government puts the expenditure at 3.8 billion euros.

As with the presentation of the tariff cap for gas and electricity at the end of September, the Prime Minister was silent about the detailed financing.

President Macron's actions as “the nation's Santa Claus” met with concentrated criticism from the opposition.

The most frequent criticism was that there will be elections in six months and that Macron will be campaigning at taxpayers' expense.

Political diversionary?

The president is primarily driven by fear of a new “yellow vest” crisis. In October 2018, the protests were sparked by an "eco-tax" on fuel decided by the government. A few “yellow vests” have already met again at traffic circles to protest against the price increases on fuel and diesel. The leader of the right-wing party Les Républicains, Damien Abad, criticized the president for buying social peace. “Governing does not mean writing bad checks, but rather finding permanent solutions,” warned Abad.

Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said the compensation was not an answer to the need for many French people to pay their bills. Le Pen called for the value added tax on fuel, gas and oil to be permanently reduced to 5.5 percent. The left-wing party La France Insoumise (LFI) considers the one-off payment to be a political diversion. "The inflation compensation has no effect on the rising fuel prices," complained LFI MP Eric Coquerel.

The Greens are particularly outraged by the “improvised one-off payment”. The general secretary of the environmental party Europe Ecologie Les Verts, Julien Bayou, criticized "a solution that comes too late and does not improve the dependency on the car in the medium term". The defeated Green presidential candidate Sandrine Rousseau made fun of the Prime Minister's handouts: “100 euros and a Mars!” Under the hashtag of the same name, tens of thousands of French expressed their frustration on Twitter at how the government was trying to buy them with a one-time gift.

The leader of the liberal political circle "Objectif France", Rafik Smati, was outraged by the "technocratic monster that generously distributes taxpayers' money to allow citizens to pay their taxes".

For forty years, France has been responding to challenges with dirigistic decisions from “Father State”.

The French were increasingly being patronized, said Smati.

Praise from François Hollande

However, there was praise from the former Socialist President François Hollande.

The measure has "the merit of the simplicity, the efficiency and the clarity".

The leader of the government group La République en marche, Christophe Castaner, was also enthusiastic about the "quick and efficient measure with which the purchasing power of the French is preserved".

For President Macron, the one-off payment is a radical turnaround.

Five years ago he had campaigned as "anti-Santa Claus".

He preached that the state had made too many promises in the past that could not be kept, yes, he urged the French not to always seek the solution with the state.

That is why he wanted to use the catchphrase “start-up nation” to strengthen private initiatives and dismantle the welfare state.

In the “yellow west” crisis, he broke his resolutions for the first time.

The corona pandemic shook his convictions so much that he wanted to "reinvent himself".

It now looks like he's coming back to the ideas of his long-time sponsor François Hollande - whom he betrayed in 2016.

Keywords: macron, people, french, diversion, payment, compatriots, nation, salary, announcement, solution, santa claus, application, citizens, politics, most