The five priorities for France’s new Prime Minister

The five priorities for France's new Prime Minister
Jean Castex makes his speech to the French parliament. Photo: AFP
France's new Prime Minister - until recently a low-profile bureaucrat and local mayor - has outlined his plans to revitalise the nation, vowing to make jobs his overarching priority.

Jean Castex won solid backing in the French parliamentary on Wednesday as he outlined the main priotiries for the government in the months to come.

With the economy having taken a battering over the effects of the coronavirus Castex, drafted in by President Emmanuel Macron to head a new government and lead the nation out of its worst health and economic crisis since World War II, said he was up for the challenge.

He duly won the support of 345 lawmakers to 177 against with 43 abstentions.

1. Masks

With France's Covid-19 death toll exceeding 30,000 one of the world's highest, Castex also confirmed to Le Parisien daily what Macron had trailed in his July 14th national day address, that from August 1st masks in shops and other enclosed public spaces will be mandatory to stop a virus resurgence.

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Keeping the virus under control will of course be the major preoccupation of the government and the Prime Minister, whose previous role saw him drawing up the detailed plans for the gradual loosening of the lockdown.

Both the government and the advisory Scientific Council have already said that there will be no return to a nationwide lockdown, even if there is a second wave in the autumn, but local lockdowns could be introduced in areas that have major outbreaks.

2. Jobs

Castex said preserving jobs would be the key plank of his programme over the coming 18 months and also fleshed out some details of a mooted €100 billion EU scheme to tackle unemployment as the bloc's 27 economies reel from the effects of the coronavirus.

“Let's get to work,” said Castex, whose government has pledged billions of euros for investments as well as measures to limit job losses in an economy expected to shrink by around 10 percent this year.

3. Pension reform

The highly controversial reform of the French pension system which lead to weeks of transport strikes in December and January is back on the table. Implementing the project was temporarily shelved while the government grappled with the health crisis, but both Macron and Castex have said that they will be bringing it back, albeit with some tweaks after extra consultations.

4. The environment

Castex pledged to the parliament to reinforce social protection while stepping up efforts to transition to a green economy.

Macron has already said he will not oppose a referendum on the far-reaching proposals of the Citizens' Charter on the Climate. The package of measures – put together by 150 members of the public in a nine-month brainstorming session – aim to reduce carbon emissions in France by at least 40 percent by 2030.

5. The health system

The health system is also to receive support – with Castex confirming to parliament the €6 billion already announced, including support for wages rises for health workers.

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