Demos, Jackpots, Smart Cards

photo: brass lipp, st germain

The time of the apéro in Saint-Germain.

And a Million-Franc Prize

Paris:- Sunday, 19. March 2000:- Did Parisians have an interesting newsweek? - you may want to ask. To begin with, nobody announced any other new ocean liners, so as far as I'm concerned, the week's news was a washout. On TV, the commercials weren't any better either.

National Demos - 1st: Education

On Thursday most of France's schools were deserted when administrators, teachers, students and some of their parents held demonstrative parades around the country. In Paris, the marchers choose the Quartier Latin.

The purpose of this was to show discontent with the 'reform' plans of the Minister of Education, Claudephoto: bookshop, album bd Allègre. I don't know what his plans are, but they have created a lot of passion for some time now.

According to Le Parisien, one of the chants went like this: "Jospin, n'oublie pas, on vote en 2001." For the occasion teachers came to Paris from places as far away as Montpellier, to demand smaller classes, more teachers, or both - and an end to the hiring-freeze.

They also said it would be a good thing for the Prime Minister to get rid of his Education Minister, and 'announce it tonight.' According to police count-the-crowd experts, the marchers numbered 25,000 and the marchers of course counted themselves as twice as many.

Opinion was divided like it always is in France. Over-full classes are resented by teachers and parents with kids, but those who are neither do not understand why these demonstrations have been going on for the past ten years.

The demonstrators say they are 'determined.'

National Demos - 2nd: the Revenue Collectors

Just to prove that Paris is up to snuff, 200,000 angry tax assessors and collectors were out on the streets of France on Thursday too. Again, police head-counters say they numbered 9000 in Paris, and again the organizers of the protest said they were no less than 30,000.

For these sort of figures, differences of three to one are not uncommon, but it could mean thephoto: bookshop schools' demo estimates were more realistic - or the tax assessors can't count as well. Take your pick.

The 'tax march' was held from the Place de l'Italie to the Place Vauban in the 7th. If these were the people I saw - ah, no - it was Tuesday, and they were the hospital workers. This must have been a minor demo, as I can find no 'numbers' in Wednesday's paper.

Largely unnoticed - but also on Thursday - there was another protest parade on the right bank, by water agents who have been transformed, I think, into cable operators.

This closed no schools and no tax offices, shut down no emergency wards, so I guess nobody cares about the plight of these people.

All the same, all of the demonstrators mentioned above, say they are 'determined.'

Jackpot II

It seems like only a short time ago that I was writing about a 'jackpot' that was the result of a bonanza of tax collections for the 1999 budget. Guess what?

Estimates calculate that the budget for 2000 will produce a 50 billion-franc excess. So, in the evening of the day of the demonstrations, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin took over private TV's TF1 TV-news to announce how this new 'cagnotte' is going to be divvied up.

This was so important that TF1's video tape of it was tacked onto the end of state TV's France-2 evening TV-news.

I would say that state TV not getting an exclusive from the Prime Minister must be some sort of 'fair-play' at work, but I think TF1 has more viewers.

Tax reductions were the main 'good news,' evenphoto: librarie espagnol if these turn out to be minuscule when divided by all the residents of France. One effect will be to reduce the number of tax-payers in low-icome groups - by a whopping 600,000 households.

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