PARIS Here are some of the key points in the programme of Emmanuel Macron, a centrist candidate in France's presidential election on April 23 and May 7.
Macron, a former investment banker running as an independent centrist, is favourite to win the unpredictable race in a May runoff.
Eye-catchers for voters include local housing tax exemptions worth 10 billion euros ($10.6 billion), reimbursement of the full cost of cultural shows, dentures and hearing aids, and cuts in social welfare levies for low earners coupled with tax breaks for their employers.
Flagship proposals involve the politically sensitive merger of myriad public- and private-sector retirement pension systems as well as a merger of unemployment benefit systems, which currently differ for regular wage-earners and the self-employed.
Broad financial targets include keeping France's budget deficit below the EU-mandated 3 percent of GDP, lowering the jobless rate to 7 percent by the end of his potential five-year term from around 10 percent now, an investment plan of 50 billion euros and public spending savings seen reaching 60 billion annually by the end of the mandate.
Among other key ideas:
- Corporate tax would be cut from 33 to 25 percent.
- The CICE tax credit system for firms would be converted into permanent payroll tax breaks for low-wage workers.
- The 35-hour legal work week would remain but negotiation of real work hours would be left to company level.
- Low-wage earners would be exempted from certain social welfare levies, a measure that would put an extra month's wage per year in the employee's pocket.
Macron's plan calls for 50 billion euros of public investment over five years, of which:
- 15 billion for training/changing skill-sets to find jobs.
- 15 billion on energy/environment targets: exit within 5 years from coal-based energy production, shift towards alternative, renewable energy sources, rise in carbon tax.
- 5 billion in farm sector financing for environment-friendly projects, local production cooperatives and aid during price crises.
- 5 billion for transport and local infrastructure, with a focus on renovating old train lines rather than building new ones.
- 5 billion euros on health sector, including better reimbursement of glasses, dentures and hearing aids, plus move away from wasteful medicine packages that contain more pills than a patient needs.
- 5 billion on modernisation, computerisation of public administration.
SAVINGS IN PUBLIC SPENDING
A target of 60 billion euros for savings on spending is so far more of a projection than a plan, premised on 10 billion euros of unemployment benefit savings generated by a drop in the jobless rate to 7 percent.
Macron also sees savings of 15 billion euros in public health spending due to greater efficiency.
Another 25 billion is predicted to come from public service modernisation, of which a small part would come from payroll cost falls due to a 120,000 cut in headcount, of which 50,000 will be in the central civil service.
The remaining 10 billion would come from cuts in local authorities spending, including a 70,000 reduction in headcount.
SECURITY/LAW AND ORDER
Build 15,000 extra prison places, hire 10,000 police, raise defence budget to 2 percent of GDP, from just under 1.8 percent in 2016. Introduction of on-the-spot fines for drug use and issue orders banning gang-leaders from certain neighbourhoods.
Halve number of early primary school pupils to 12 per class in 12,000 low-income zones, with teachers given a bonus of 3,000 euros a year to work in such areas.
All 18-year-olds to get a 500 euro "culture pass" to spend on cinema, theatre and concert tickets.
Mobile phone use to be banned on school premises for pupils aged up to about 15 years.
Strict application of secular policy in public life. No ban on Muslim veil for university students, as envisaged by some candidates.
Asylum requests processed within six months.
State subsidy of 15,000 euros over 3 years for firms that hire people in 200 low-income neighbourhoods.
Reduce number of lawmakers by a third in both the Senate and National Assembly.
Reduce by at least a quarter the number of provincial local authorities.
Ban hiring of family-members as assistants of lawmakers.
Elected mandates limited to maximum three of same kind.
Ban on consulting activity for people holding elected office.
($1 = 0.9473 euros)
(Compiled by Brian Love; editing by Michel Rose and Adrian Croft)