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These are the gripes that concern French people the most

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These are the gripes that concern French people the most
Photo: AFP
12:39 CET+01:00
The first phase of France's unprecedented national consultation has just ended. What has it revealed so far about what really matters to the French?
The first phase of Emmanuel Macron's 'great national debate' came to a close Friday, two months after it was launched in a bid to put an end to France's 'yellow vest' crisis. 
 
As the time for analysis now gets underway, an idea of what the French care about most can already be gleaned from the results of the huge public consultation. 
 
Tens of thousands of people took part and 1.4 online contributions were made to the 'great debate' website.  
 
The debate was centred around four major themes: the environment, taxes and public spending, democracy and citizenship; and the organisation of the state and public services.  
 
These are the main issues that have come out of France's great debate so far.
 
80km speed limit
 
One of the most popular topics commented online overall was the controversial speed limit introduced in France in July 2018 which lowered the limit on many main roads from 90km/h to 80km/h (50mph) to improve road safety.
 
It met with fierce opposition and became one focus of yellow vest anger with thousands of speed cameras being destroyed early this year. Many people think it's unfair and penalises people who drive and want it scrapped.
 
 
France set to lower speed limit 'to save lives' but move lacks public support
 
The Environment
 
The French seem worried about environmental issues, especially pollution and climate change and are concerned over how to tax transport and how it will be affected by a transition towards are more sustainable future.
 
Green taxes are a sensitive topic in France: the yellow vests protests began over a fuel hike on diesel and petrol intended to pay for the 'environmental transition' which the government dropped under pressure.
 
Citizen's referendums (RIC)
 
Many yellow vests demanded them and the debate's participants have also called for the setting up of a 'citizen's referendum initiative'. The referendum initiative would create a new political system, in which the ultimate power would be taken away from the President and parliament and given to “the people” through mass popular votes called a “referendum d'initiative citoyenne (RIC)”.
 
Wealth tax
 
France's wealth tax called the ISF was abolished or at least reformed early on in Macron's presidency.
 
The tax is only levied on real estate assets  rather than overall wealth wit the the aim that it would encourage people to invest and hire in France.
 
But critics including the yellow vests have accused him of favouring the rich while his government raised taxes on pensioners. Many French people want this tax on high earners to be brought back. They see it as a "present to the rich".
 
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French government to consider bringing back taxes on high earners
 
Taxes
 
Spending power is a big issue in France and many contributors said they wanted more fiscal justice.
 
Many of them want income tax to be cut. Macron has reduced taxes by phasing out a housing tax called 'taxe d'habitation', but this has also been subject to criticism as it cut the budget of local authorities which depended on it. 
 
Pensions
 
Elderly people were active participants in the great debate with pensions being a big topic. Pensioners were the main losers of President Emmanuel Macron's first budget mainly due to a hike in the CSG social charge - a levy deducted from salaries and pensions that goes towards paying for France's social security system.
 
Those with an income of less than €2,000 a month are exempt from it say they are still below the bread line with one of the demands being for pension to be in line with inflation.
 
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Medical deserts
 
The French are deeply worried about the lack of medical services in the lesser-populated parts of the country. Hospital closures and lack of medical services in rural France have recently been making headlines and the French want to government to do something about it.
 
Blank votes 
 
Many participants said they wanted blank ballots to be taken into account in elections which isn't currently the case in France to allow elections to be more representative of the feelings of the electorate.
 
In the 2017 president election some 25 percent of voters - around 12 million people - didn't cast a vote. The French would like people to be able to cast a meaningful ballot even if it is not for the candidates on offer.
 
What happens now?
 
Now the people have had their say, for the government the tough part starts now as the French wait for the results of the debate to translate into action. 
 
There's a lot of information to wade through and experts will now pour over all the data from the consultation to make an in depth-analysis. 
 
Over the next month, Emmanuel Macron will continue to tour around France to attend meetings after which he has said will chose which areas to focus on and what actions to take as a result. Debates will be held in parliament April.
 
While Macron's popularity ratings have risen in the polls since the consultation began, participants showed distrust towards elected officials with 60% of contributors wanting the number of local officials to be cut. 
 
The French also appear to be sceptical of the government's ability to find answers to their demands. A recent poll showed that only a third of respondents said they trusted the government to find a solutions to the problems brought up in the great debate. 
 
 
Macron's 'Great National Debate': How will it all work?
 
 
 
 
 

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