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Taxing Big Tech: France Edition

Taxing Big Tech: France Edition

Amid a domestic political crisis, France's Emmanuel Macron has found a useful scapegoat: Big Tech. This week, France became the latest European country to slap a new tax on big tech companies operating within its borders.

For Mr. Macron, the new digital tax solves two big problems at once. It raises much-needed revenue at a moment in which his decision to appease protestors by canceling a proposed carbon levy has put a 10-billion-euro hole in the government's coffers. While the tech tax is expected to raise a comparatively meager 570 million euros next year, it goes some way toward plugging that gap. It looks like the government moved up implementation of the tech tax, which it announced on Monday will now take place in January, for that very reason.

It also helps to solve a perception problem. Whacking Big Tech is an easy way for Macron to dispel the notion that he's more interested in enriching economic elites than helping out marginalized citizens. It's tough to think of a bigger bête noire than the world's most powerful, fastest growing firms who craftily park their revenues in low-tax countries to avoid paying a fair share. Support for the measure is overwhelming in France, with around 85 percent of people in favor.

Zooming out, the go-it-alone approach was something of a fallback plan for Mr. Macron, who earlier failed to convince EU members to back a bloc-wide version of the scheme after low-tax nations like Ireland and Luxembourg objected. France isn't the only country in the region that has opted for this route. The UK and Spain have recently announced similar digital tax plans.

Whether it's due to a perceived need to rein in Silicon Valley or pure political survival, or both, Big Tech's tax bill is on its way up.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

Over the weekend, some 40,000 Russians braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take (part 1):

Ian Bremmer here, happy Monday. And have your Quick Take to start off the week.

Maybe start off with Biden because now President Biden has had a week, almost a week, right? How was it? How's he doing? Well, for the first week, I would say pretty good. Not exceptional, but not bad, not bad. Normal. I know everyone's excited that there's normalcy. We will not be excited there's normalcy when crises start hitting and when life gets harder and we are still in the middle of a horrible pandemic and he has to respond to it. But for the first week, it was okay.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Russian opposition leader Navalny in jail. Hundreds of thousands demonstrating across the country in Russia over well over 100 cities, well over 3000 arrested. And Putin responding by saying that this video that was put out that showed what Navalny said was Putin's palace that costs well over a billion dollars to create and Putin, I got to say, usually he doesn't respond to this stuff very quickly. Looked a little defensive, said didn't really watch it, saw some of it, but it definitely wasn't owned by him or owned by his relatives.

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Even as vaccines roll out around the world, COVID-19 is continuing to spread like wildfire in many places, dashing hopes of a return to normal life any time soon. Some countries, like Israel and the UK for instance, have been praised for their inoculation drives, while still recording a high number of new cases. It's clear that while inoculations are cause for hope, the pace of rollouts cannot keep up with the fast-moving virus. Here's a look at the countries that have vaccinated the largest percentages of their populations so far – and a snapshot of their daily COVID caseloads (7-day rolling average) in recent weeks.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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