Gas-Pump Blockade

photo: wine bar, le barometre

In Paris, wine only costs a bit more than gas these days.

Happy Ferrari Drivers

Paris:- Sunday, 3. September 2000:- New headlines this week don't mean the subjects of the main stories have changed much.

While the groaning about high fuel prices has gone up a notch and the back-to-school migration is much closer - on Tuesday - the government added a new element during the week with its major tax reduction announcement.

As mentioned here last week, everybody is groaning about the high prices of gas and diesel fuel. By Monday the situation will take a dramatic turn - which could affect you if you are travelling by road in France.

Refineries To Be Blockaded

Starting tonight, drivers of big trucks will be blockading oil refineries around France. They will be especially targeting refineries near ports where crude is landed, but they will also block many other fuel storage depots.

Tonight's TV-news showed drivers lining up at gas pumps, especially in southern areas, to top up their tanks in anticipation of Monday's action.

Some filling stations have already run dry; sending motorists on frantic hunts for those still with gas. Angry farmers are joining the truckers in the Lyon, Nancy, Nantes and Sète areas.

Actually, farmers have been demonstrating at selected locations around France since the middle of the week. Fishermen used their boats to barricade a great number of ports - to protest the high price of fuel.

But the fishermen had the satisfaction of receiving a promise of compensation for fuel prices above 1.20 francs per litre, made by the ministry for fisheries late on Thursday.

Other heavy users of gas - taxi drivers and ambulance operators, organized go-slow convoys around the country, blocking access to some airports. Operators of tour buses were also angry.

Tax Reductions - Not Reforms

While France was on holidays Laurent Fabius, the new Minister of Finance, was hitting the books with special attention focused on the finance ledgers.

On Thursday Monsieur Fabius presented a wide-ranging program of tax reductions. A preview was presentedphoto: on seine, west of pont des arts in Thursday's edition of Le Parisien. Before the actual details were known, these previews always seem rosy.

Drinking, not fishing, is this boat's business - so it's blockade-free.

The actual tax reductions touched all classes of income tax, and business taxes affecting smaller companies were lowered. For those with the lowest salaries, a couple of extra-taxes were altered; allowing an effective real increase in disposable income.

The fuel tax on household heating fuel, which is also used by farmers' tractors, will be reduced by 30 percent on 21. September.

For ordinary gas, the reduction was more complicated - after 21. September when the base gas price rises and with it the corresponding value-added tax, the tax will be lowered in compensation.

The most onerous fuel tax is the TIPP, and this is what has been lowered for domestic fuel. For vehicle fuel, this tax seems not to be affected - only the value-added tax on top of it.

The annual license tax, called the 'vignette,' has been suppressed for private drivers, but not for companies. Doing this will save a Twingo owner 504 francs and a Ferrari driver, 12,648 francs, depending on where the car is registered. Those without cars, will save nothing.

The suppression of this little tax will have its repercussions. It is collected by the operators of tabacs around France and they will lose the small commissions generated. The sums collected go directly to the departments - but the tax plan sees a fixed compensation for the loss.

This will reduce the budget flexibility of departments, which might translate into higher residence taxes, which are also paid locally.

All in all, those paid the minimum wage will get a real monthly raise; about equivalent to the savings on filling up a 3500-litre tank of domestic fuel - 500 francs.

Ferrari drivers come out of it best of all, with their five-digit savings, which they can use to tank up their luxo gas-guzzlers.

Yuk! - School Lunches

Every year at this time of the return to school in France - known as the 'rentrée' - some serious defect is found with the system.

French schools serve a billion meals a year to their students, and the French agency for sanitary security says the meals are too fatty, too lacking in vegetables and dairy products.

According to republican traditions, parents buy lunch tickets forphoto: bar one way their kids based on the levels of their incomes. A lunch ticket can vary from 4.75 to 21.80 francs within one school. The 'real' cost of an average lunch is supposed to be about 50 francs.

In translation: 'Sens Unique' - but in what sense?

The real problem with kids is they like junk food more than what is 'good' for them. If you give them a menu of taboulé, beef in sauce with carrotes vichy and a fruit of the season, they will still want breaded frozen fish and frites, with myo and ketchup.

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