[The Fountain] A Pyrrhic victory of Macron? Think again

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[The Fountain] A Pyrrhic victory of Macron? Think again

The author is an international news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

French President Emmanuel Macron has carried out pension reform. The main idea is to delay the retirement and pension eligible age from the current 62 to 64, and to increase the insurance premium payment period from 42 years to 43 years. The Macron government plans to lift the retirement age by three months from September 2023 and eventually to 64 by 2030.

Pension reform is often compared to “lighting a powder keg.” As French people get pension payment regardless of occupations and are guaranteed to enjoy a post-retirement life similar to the level as before, the reform plan to “work longer, pay more and receive later” was upsetting to them.

President Macron also attempted to raise oil tax and conduct pension reforms in 2019 during his first term, but backed down due to the vehement “yellow vest” protests.

Since then, discussions have seemed to fizzle out because of Covid-19, but shortly after his reelection victory last year, he is tackling the powder keg of pension reform once again.

Probably due to the unfavorable political climate of not having the majority in the French parliament and the trauma of the yellow vest protest, Macron made a hardline move of invoking Subsection 3, Article 49 of the Constitution, which allows the president to force the passage of a bill without a vote if the government deems it urgent.

As he skipped the legislative process, citizens are protesting on the street again, followed by opposition parties submitting motions of no confidence. As all motions of no confidence failed to get through the lower house, the pension reform practically has the effect of being passed by the legislature.

As Macron successfully attained the pension reform that no French government has ever done, evaluations are mixed. Reuters disparaged it by calling it “A Pyrrhic victory.” King Pyrrhus of Epirus in ancient Greece won a series of battles, but after suffering critical casualties and losing a competent general, he was deemed to have been defeated in the final battle. Simply put, a Pyrrhic victory is a costly win without substance.

On the other hand, some people are applauding the pension reform. Instead of neglecting the exhausted pension reserve that is expected to have 10 billion euro ($10.9 billion) in deficit each year, Macron proposed the solution, “If you have a sound mind, there is only one way to go, and it is to work longer.”

The French president is considered to have chosen the thorny path rather than deceiving the people and leading them to the sweet hell. Pension reform is also urgent in Korea. How long should we wait for politicians to propose the “road to take?”
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