Raft of measures aim to improve life in suburbs
PARIS, Nov 8 (AFP) - Prime minister Dominique de Villepin unveiled Tuesday a raft of social and economic measures designed to improve conditions in France's tough, low-income neighbourhoods that have spawned unrest raging across the country.
The initiatives — outlined before parliament the same day the government approved powers to declare a state of emergency in specified regions of the country — aim to reduce chronically high unemployment in those suburbs, provide better education and address entrenched racism.
“Our collective responsibility is to make difficult areas the same sort of territory as others in the republic,” Villepin said.
But he added that “the reestablishment of public order is a prerequisite” to the measures being implemented — something he admitted would “take some time.”
The intiatives are:
— the creation of an anti-discrimination agency with special officials appointed to be in charge of certain regions, and making the fight against discrimination a national priority;
— 20,000 job contracts with local government bodies or associations paid a minimum wage would be reserved for those in the suburbs struggling to find work;
— an extra EUR 100 million for associations that work in the neighbourhoods;
— 5,000 more teaching assistant posts in the 1,200 schools in districts designated as troublespots;
— the creation of 15 more special economic zones that provide tax breaks to companies that set up inside them as an incentive to boost local employment.
Villepin also said “social imbalances due to an insufficiently controlled flow of clandestine immigration” would be tackled.
Many of the areas affected by the initiatives are impoverished districts on the periphery of cities and towns populated predominantly by families that immigrated from France’s former colonial possessions in Africa.
The youths perpetrating the violence that has gripped the country since October 27 are mostly drawn from the large Muslim communities that live in the neighbourhoods.
They have complained that, though often born in France, they endure racial discrimination when looking for work, have poor-quality education and few economic options other than to participate in the trade in drugs and stolen goods that is rife.
Subject: French news