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French pension reform commissioner in conflict of interest controversy

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French pension reform commissioner in conflict of interest controversy
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REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
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Jean-Paul Delevoye, the French minister and High Commissioner leading the country's pension reform, resigned on Monday from a side role as administrator of an insurance group amid talk of a conflict of interest.

Le Parisien newspaper revealed on Sunday that Delevoye worked as voluntary administrator of the Ifpass training institute in the insurance sector, a role the minister did not disclose on his mandatory 'declaration of interest', published on Saturday.

Critics said that despite Delevoye's role being voluntary, the fact that he had close links to the insurance sector matters as the sector is expected to benefit from the reform, which some say will incite the French to use private insurance to compensate losses from their pensions.

Delevoye said not disclosing his role was "a mistake" and an "omission by oversight". He added that "he hadn't thought about it for a second" and admitted it "isn't sensible".

"To end all controversy, I have resigned this morning from my role as administrator of Ifpass with immediate effect", Delevoye said on Monday in a statement. He said he had attended "only three board meetings" since he was tasked with reforming the French pensions system in 2017, the last time "in December 2018".

He was "named administrator of Ifpass (...) by the board of IGS, a non-profit federation of independent associations", his statement added.

Delevoye joined the French government in September and has been tasked by president Macron to oversee the controversial pensions reform, which has faced opposition in the form of street protests and strikes across the country over the last week.

READ MORE: France braces for further travel chaos as pension strike continues

The revelation of Delevoye's role in the sector led many to react.

"Mr. Delevoye can tax the whole country with his pensions reform and yet forget a part of his declaration of interest, and there's no problem", Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the left-wing party La France Insoumise, said. The "real face of the pensions reform" is revealed through its High Commissioner, the national secretary of the French Communist party Fabien Roussel said: "everything is done to encourage future pensioners to use private insurance".

Marine Le Pen, the leader of far-right party National Rally, said that this episode is "a new illustration" of Macron's politics, who "does not govern in the interest of the French: he destroys our system in aid of private interests and financial powers."

Macron's party La Republique En Marche (LREM) supported Delevoye. "This is totally ridiculous", the head of the LREM parliamentary majority Gilles Le Gendre said, adding that Delevoye's role had been "entirely voluntary, which he did not exercise regularly and doesn't exercise anymore". "We need him", Le Gendre added.

The civil society reacted to the news, too. The anti-corruption group Anticor commented on Delevoye's "oversight", saying that insurers the Commissioner worked for "do not dislike" the pensions reform:

Other groups, like Attac France, a social and environmental justice group, called for Delevoye to resign not from his role as administrator in the insurance sector, but as High Commissioner of the pensions reform: "It is from his post of minister tasked with the pensions reforms that he should resign", the group said.

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