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France: Yellow Vests rock country's economy, tourism

Protests cause damage of billions of euros, thousands lose jobs

Erdoğan Çağatay Zontur  | 16.01.2019
France: Yellow Vests rock country's economy, tourism

By Yusuf Ozcan

PARIS

The Yellow Vest demonstrations have dealt a major blow to the country's economy and tourism as it enters week 10.

According to a report released by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), the growth rate of France -- the second greatest economy of Europe -- will be lower than expected in the last quarter of 2018 due to the protests.

INSEE announced that it decreased the estimated growth from 1.7 percent to 1.5 percent for 2018.

Since Nov. 17, thousands of protesters wearing bright yellow vests -- dubbed the Yellow Vests -- initially gathered in major French cities, including Paris, to protest Macron's controversial fuel tax hike and the deteriorating economic situation.

Drop in int’l flights to Paris

The protests also affected tourism in Paris during the New Year's holiday.

Christian Mantei, director general of Atout France, said there was a 5 to 10 percent drop in international flights to Paris. He also said flight reservations to Paris for the first three months of 2019 were down 6.8 percent due to the protests.

The number of visitors also dropped 4.2 percent, according to research company Quantaflow. Stores, restaurants and shopping malls lost over €2 billion (nearly $2.28 billion).

Some popular stores along Paris' famous Champs-Elysees also closed their doors as a result of the protests.

Many sectors damaged

It is reported that some 58,000 workers became unemployed due to damages and that the issue cost the government an estimated €32 million ($36.4 million).

According to construction firm Vinci, the protests led damages of tens of thousands of euros. At least 60 percent of 3,200 fixed radars were vandalized.

While the food sector suffered a loss of nearly €13 billion ($14.8 billion), transportation companies have damages of €2 billion (nearly $2.28 billion) due to difficulties in deliveries.

French Insurance Federation, an umbrella organization for insurance companies, reported that more than 6,000 cars, offices and houses -- worth €100-200 million ($114-228 million) -- were damaged during the protests.

Demonstrations

Demonstrators held protests blocking roads and also the entrances and exits to gas stations and factories across the country. Police responded with teargas and water cannons.

The protesters, who generally live in rural areas due to high rents in the cities, demanded that Macron cut fuel taxes and ease their economic difficulties.

Under pressure, Macron announced a rise in the minimum wage and scuttled the tax hike.

Since then, however, the protests have grown into a broader movement aimed at tackling income inequality and are calling for giving citizens a stronger voice in government decision-making.

At least 10 people have died, more than 5,600 others have been detained and in excess of 1,700 others have been injured in the protests.

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