'Emmanuel Macron’s plan for a nationwide public debate, intended to defuse months of Gilets Jaunes protests, is off to a rocky start. The spotlight has shifted to the extravagant salary of the official in charge of organizing it.
Chantal Jouanno is a former sports minister in the conservative government of Nicolas Sarkozy, and the current chairwoman of the CNDP, an official body for public debates, a role for which she receives an annual salary of €176,000 ($201,000).
The prominent position for yet another well-paid bureaucrat has caused outrage against the backdrop of street protests that were fueled by the disconnect between decisions taken by financially secure public officials, and the impact they have on ordinary citizens, such as the now-cancelled petrol tax.
Jouanno, a former national karate champion, deployed a series of blocks to stave off the discontent.
She insisted she was not specifically being paid for the “unprecedented” public discussions, but for a broader role that she assumed last year, adding that she does not negotiate her salary, which is set by the “CNDP, whoever they are.”
“I think it’s important that people can express their shock with my salary, and if they want to propose a different salary for my role, they are free to do so,” she told France Info TV.
She was also defended by her colleague, Ecology Minister Francois de Rugy, who said that if people wanted political posts to be “filled for free, or the minimum wage, it means society no longer recognizes that there is a scale of responsibilities.” With a self-reported salary of just €114,000 ($130,400) per annum – de Rugy must consider himself to be about a third less responsible than Jouanno.
The French president’s proposal for three months of public consultations and town-hall debates starting from January 15 was a bold gambit, but fraught with risk. As part of the process, the government is sure to receive thousands of ambitious and contradictory demands, which may be at odds with its own past tax and labor reforms, and its planned pension.'
Read more: Organizer of Macron’s ‘grand debate’ with Yellow Vests defends her ‘shocking’ €176,000 salary
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