French President Emmanuel Macron has urged citizens to complain less, telling pensioners: “We don’t realise how lucky we are”.
The nation would be better off if they followed wartime Charles de Gaulle’s example, the president told a woman worried about cuts to her pension on Thursday.
Mr Macron said he had learnt from Mr de Gaulle’s grandson that the wartime leader lived by the principle: “You may speak very freely but the one thing you have no right to do is complain.”
According to local media, he is then said to have told the pensioner: “I think the general had a good rule of thumb there.
“The country would be in a different place if it was like that. We don’t realise how immensely lucky we are.”
The president, who has been referred to as a “president of the rich” by opponents, made the comments during a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the French constitution, held in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, Mr de Gaulle’s home village.
It comes a week after the government unveiled billions of euros in tax relief for businesses and households, alongside budget cuts.
Next year’s budget will also see pensions and welfare benefits shaved further following Mr Macron’s complaints in June that France spent “a crazy amount of dough” on social programmes.
Mr Macron’s government has forced pensioners to make higher social security contributions, prompting pensioners across the country to break out in hundreds of protests against his reforms.
The president pledged to balance the budget in France for the first time in more than 40 years by the end of his term in 2022, requiring an overhaul of state spending.