PARIS (REUTERS) - Centrist Emmanuel Macron is a frontrunner in France's presidential election and is favourite to win the unpredictable race.
His closest rival is far-right leader Marine Le Pen and both have scored as high as 25 per cent in voter surveys.
Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker, have promised voters incentives such as local housing tax exemptions worth 10 billion euros (S$15 billion), reimbursement of the full cost of cultural shows, dentures and hearing aids, and cuts in social welfare levies for low income earners, coupled with tax breaks for their employers.
His flagship proposals involve the politically sensitive merger of public- and private-sector retirement pension systems, as well as a merger of unemployment benefit systems, which currently differ for regular wage-earners and the self-employed.
Here are his other key policy proposals:
- Keep France's budget deficit below the EU-mandated 3 per cent of GDP
- Lower jobless rate to 7 per cent by the end of his potential five-year term from around 10 per cent now
- Create investment plan of 50 billion euros
- Achieve public spending savings reaching 60 billion annually by the end of the mandate.
- Cut corporate tax from 33 per cent to 25 per cent
- Convert the tax credit system for firms into permanent payroll tax breaks for low-wage workers
- Maintain the 35-hour legal work week, but leave negotiation of real work hours to company level
- Exempt low-wage earners from certain social welfare levies, a measure that would put an extra month's wage per year in the employee's pocket.
- 50 billion euros of public investment over five years, of which 15 billion for training/changing skill-sets to find jobs.
- 15 billion on energy/environment targets: exit within 5 years from coal-based energy production, shift towards alternative, renewable energy sources, rise in carbon tax.
- 5 billion in farm sector financing for environment-friendly projects, local production cooperatives and aid during price crises.
- 5 billion for transport and local infrastructure, with a focus on renovating old train lines rather than building new ones.
- 5 billion euros on health sector, including better reimbursement of glasses, dentures and hearing aids, plus move away from wasteful medicine packages that contain more pills than a patient needs.
- 5 billion on modernisation, computerisation of public administration.
SECURITY/LAW AND ORDER
- Build 15,000 extra prison places, hire 10,000 police, raise defence budget to 2 per cent of GDP, from just under 1.8 per cent in 2016
- Introduce on-the-spot fines for drug use and issue orders banning gang leaders from certain neighbourhoods.
- Halve number of early primary school pupils to 12 per class in 12,000 low-income zones, with teachers given a bonus of 3,000 euros a year to work in such areas.
- All 18-year-olds to get a 500 euro "culture pass" to spend on cinema, theatre and concert tickets.
- Mobile phone use to be banned on school premises for pupils aged up to about 15 years.
- Strict application of secular policy in public life. No ban on Muslim veil for university students, as envisaged by some candidates.
- Asylum requests processed within six months
- State subsidy of 15,000 euros over 3 years for firms that hire people in 200 low-income neighbourhoods.
- Reduce number of lawmakers by a third in both the Senate and National Assembly
- Reduce by at least a quarter the number of provincial local authorities
- Ban hiring of family-members as assistants of lawmakers
- Elected mandates limited to maximum three of same kind
- Ban on consulting activity for people holding elected office