France’s Macron holds 1st big rally; Rivals stir up ‘McKinsey Affair’

PARIS >> French President Emmanuel Macron held his first massive rally Saturday in his race for reelection, promising the French extra “progress” and “solidarity” over the following 5 years, however his marketing campaign has hit a pace bump.

It’s been dubbed “the McKinsey Affair,” named after an American consulting firm employed to advise the French authorities on its COVID-19 vaccination marketing campaign and different insurance policies. A brand new French Senate report questions the federal government’s use of personal consultants and accuses McKinsey of tax dodging. The subject is energizing Macron’s rivals and dogging him at marketing campaign stops forward of France’s April 10 first-round presidential vote.

Macron, a centrist who has been within the forefront of diplomatic efforts to finish the battle in Ukraine, has a snug lead in polls to date over far-right chief Marine Le Pen and different challengers.

“We are here to make possible a project of progress, of independence, for the future, for our France,” Macron instructed a crowd of about 30,000 at a stadium that normally hosts rugby matches. “I see difficulties to make ends meet, situations of insecurity … and so much more to accomplish to turn back extremism.”

Speaking to those that see “all their salary go into gasoline, bills, rent” because the battle in Ukraine is driving up meals and vitality costs, Macron promised to let corporations give a tax-free bonus to staff of as much as 6,000 euros ($6,627) as quickly as this summer season.

He additionally promised to boost the minimal pension to 1,100 euros ($1,214) a month for many who have labored full time — up from about 700 euros now. The retirement age will have to be progressively raised from 62 to 65 to finance the plan, he stated.

Supporters welcomed him, chanting “Macron, president!” “One, two, five more years!” and waiving the French tricolor flag.

But for these making an attempt to unseat Macron, the phrase “McKinsey” is changing into a rallying cry.

Critics describe the French authorities’s 1 billion euros spent on consulting companies like McKinsey final 12 months as privatization and Americanization of French politics and are demanding extra transparency.

The French Senate, the place opposition conservatives maintain a majority, printed a report final month investigating the federal government’s use of personal consulting companies. The report discovered that state spending on such contracts has doubled previously three years regardless of combined outcomes, and warned they might pose conflicts of curiosity. Dozens of personal corporations are concerned within the consulting, together with giants like Ireland-based multinational Accenture and French group Capgemini.

Most damningly, the report says McKinsey hasn’t paid company revenue taxes in France since at the least 2011, however as a substitute used a system of “tax optimization” by way of its Delaware-based mother or father firm.

McKinsey issued a press release saying it “respects French tax rules that apply to it” and defending its work in France.

McKinsey notably suggested the French authorities on its COVID-19 vaccination marketing campaign, which acquired off to a halting begin however ultimately turned among the many world’s most complete. Outside consultants have additionally suggested Macron’s authorities on housing reform, asylum coverage and different measures.

The Senate report discovered that such companies earn smaller revenues in France than in Britain or Germany, and famous that spending on exterior consultants was increased beneath conservative former President Nicolas Sarkozy than beneath Macron.

Budget Minister Olivier Dussopt stated the state cash spent on consultants was about 0.3% of what the federal government spent on public servants’ salaries final 12 months and that McKinsey earned solely a tiny fraction of it. He accused marketing campaign rivals of inflating the affair to spice up their very own scores.

The affair is hurting Macron nonetheless.

A former funding banker as soon as accused of being “president of the rich,” Macron noticed his scores surge when his authorities spent massively to guard employees and companies early within the pandemic, vowing to do “whatever it takes” to cushion the blow. But his rivals say the McKinsey affair rekindles considerations that Macron and his authorities are beholden to non-public pursuits and out of contact with bizarre voters.

Everywhere Macron goes now, he’s requested about it.

“The last few days, I heard a lot speaking about tax evasion, an American company,” Macron stated at Saturday’s rally. “I want to remind those who show outrage that they used them (consulting firms)” in native authorities as effectively.

He additionally pointed to his authorities’s combat to ensure firms pay their justifiable share of taxes.

“The minimum tax in Europe, we fought for it, we did it,” he stated.

France is pushing for fast implementation within the 27-nation European Union of the minimal company tax of 15%, on which greater than 130 international locations agreed final October.

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