French Finance Minister Describes ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests As Catastrophe To Economy

A man with a sign reading “Macron resign” waves a French flag as “yellow vests” (Gilets jaunes) protestors gather to protest against rising oil prices and living costs at the highway’s toll of La Barque, on December 9, 2018, near Marseille, southern France.  SYLVAIN THOMAS / AFP

The Bank of France on Monday slashed its fourth-quarter growth forecast in half, to 0.2 percent from 0.4 percent, citing the impact of the “yellow vest” protests which have rocked the country.

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“Services activity has slowed under the impact of the movement. Transport, the restaurant and auto repair sectors have gone backward,” the French central bank said in its latest company survey.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire had warned Sunday that the protests sweeping France were a “catastrophe.”

“It’s a catastrophe for commerce, it’s a catastrophe for our economy,” Le Maire told reporters as he visited shops in Paris hit by looting during anti-government riots a day earlier.

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The Bank of France’s latest estimate for the three months to December is well short of the 0.8 percent that would be needed to meet the government’s 2018 growth target of 1.7 percent.

The French economy expanded 0.4 percent in the third quarter and 0.2 percent in both the first and second, according to official statistics.

Le Maire, speaking earlier on RTL, said he expected the protests to cut fourth-quarter growth by 0.1 percentage point but refused to comment on a possible downward revision of the full-year 1.7 percent figure.

“I am not going to revise the figures for the moment but we will certainly have 0.1 percentage point less growth at the end of this year,” he said.

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“That cannot be made up. That is the reality — for commerce, small business owners who have seen their shops damaged, vandalized, looted,” Le Maire said.

“That is also the reality for the foreign investors who are looking at us… I see already the impact that has abroad and it is not good for (image) of our country,” he added.


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