Middle East news

French official due to lead ‘yellow vests’ debate quits in pay furore

PARIS – 9 January 2019: The official appointed by the French government to lead a national debate over the grievances raised by 'yellow vest' protesters quit on Tuesday following a controversy over her salary.
Former sports minister Chantal Jouanno said she could not guarantee conditions for a calm debate as she had become a focus of attention after a news magazine revealed she was paid 14,700 euros ($16,800) per month to head France's National Commission for Public Debate.
The Commission is a consultative body on environmental issues.
The 'yellow vests' debate is due to be launched next week, giving President Emmanuel Macron little time to appoint a successor.
The debate, whose precise mechanisms remain unclear, is one of the key proposals he made last month in response to the wave of violent protests that has spread across the country since November.
Driving the unrest is anger, particularly among low-paid workers, over a squeeze on household incomes and a perception that Macron is indifferent to ordinary citizens' needs as he enacts reforms seen as pro-business and favouring the wealthy.
In reaction to Jouanno's withdrawal, the government will propose "a way of steering the …debate that will …preserve (its) guarantees of independence and neutrality," an official at the Prime Minister's office said.