Five key takeaways from France's €100 billion COVID-19 recovery plan

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By Pascale Davies  & AP
Jean Castex faced his first major test since his appointment as prime minister on July 3 in an address to the National Assembly.
Jean Castex faced his first major test since his appointment as prime minister on July 3 in an address to the National Assembly.   -  Copyright  MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

France's newly appointed prime minister Jean Castex laid out a €100 billion recovery roadmap on Wednesday to rescue the coronavirus-battered economy, revamp disputed pension plans and put funds aside for the environment.

The announcement comes a day after President Emmanuel Macron declared the recovery plan in a speech to the nation on Bastille Day.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the proposals:

Jobs for young people

Castex said jobs would be the “absolute priority” in the coming months and money will be pumped into creating jobs for young people, among those worst hit by the crisis. 

He said the recovery plan will also involve "massive investment" in training for those who lose their jobs during the downturn. 

Tax cuts for businesses

The prime minister said €40 billion would be used to support domestic industry and services, adding coronavirus had highlighted France's over-dependence on imports.

French companies will also see their business taxes cut by €20 billion over the next two years, France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced on Wednesday.

Le Maire told France 2 television €10 billion would be cut in 2021 and another €10 billion the following year. 

“Producing in France will be cheaper, it’s as easy as that,” he said.

To help the hardest-hit small businesses, Castex said there would be a ban on new shopping centres in suburbs.

He also said businesses hiring under 25-year-olds would be helped.

MARTIN BUREAU/AFP or licensors
Castex was appointed as prime minister on July 3.MARTIN BUREAU/AFP or licensors

A greener future?

"I believe in green growth (...), not decline," Castex told ministers.

As part of the aid package, €20 billion would be spent on investment in tackling climate change, which includes renovating older buildings and more use of electric bikes.

The announcement comes after Macron's LREM party was dealt a blow by green parties in the local elections in June.

However, Castex's announcement has already faced a backlash from environmental groups.

"How can you trust Jean Castex when the first text voted by the parliamentary majority under his leadership... consisted of allocating 15 billion euros for the air and 8 billion for the automobile [industries], without consulting climate counterparts?" asked Clement Senechal, a spokesman for Greenpeace France, in a statement.

Pensions overhaul still on the table?

At the beginning of the year, France saw a historic transport strike due to plans to overhaul pensions.

Those plans were abandoned at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. But Castex said the reforms were still "necessary" but some issues could be renegotiated.

He said all trade union and business leaders would be invited to talks to agree on a "method" and timeline for reforms in the future.

Hospitals boost

Castex announced another €6 billion for hospitals on top of another €8 billion announced earlier in the week.

Although France has one of the best health care systems, like many European countries, it faced mask shortages and hospitals were put under strain.

France's transport strike brought the country to a standstill.
Damien MEYER / AFP- FileFrance's transport strike brought the country to a standstill.