French lawmakers approve new purchasing power package

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PARIS — The National Assembly, France’s lower chamber, approved a €44 billion support package to help French people face the consequences of soaring inflation and energy prices.

The measures are spread over two texts, a so-called purchasing power bill, approved in the early hours of Friday morning last week, and an updated version of the budget law, adopted at 4 a.m. on Wednesday. The bills still have to go through the Senate.

Parliamentary discussions on the new set of measures were a test for French President Emmanuel Macron, whose coalition lost an absolute majority at the National Assembly following elections in June. Opposition MPs managed to sneak in a few amendments, including a €230 million package to help people who need to buy heating oil for next winter.

€9.7 billion out of the €44 billion provided by the bill will be dedicated to fully nationalize EDF, by buying the remaining 16 percent of the energy giant that is not already owned by the French state.

Other approved measures include prolonging existing caps on gas and electricity prices until the end of 2022, raising pensions and social benefits, and removing a so-called audiovisual fee. Public broadcasting will be funded by VAT revenue instead.

The government is also set to increase an existing 18 cents-per-liter discount on fuel to 30 cents-per-liter for September and October, and then reducing it to 10 cents-per-liter until the end of the year.

To become effective, the two texts now need the approval of the French Senate, which already started examining them in committees, and will debate them in plenary starting from July 28.