France’s Yellow Vest Protests: What is the Impact on the Country’s Economy?
France's yellow jacket protests are having a serious impact on the economy (Photo: Twitter, armani_salado)

Pictures of yellow vested protesters protesting and rioting have filled the TV screens over the weekend. As over 1 lakh of them congregated in Paris, the city was brought to a halt.

The protesters resorted to breaking windows, burning vehicles and vandalising public property as they demanded that President Emmanuel Macron reduce taxes on fossil fuels, lower taxes on earned incomes, better pensions and easier university entry requirements.

Le Parisien newspaper reported that protesters in Paris damaged and burnt an estimated 50 vehicles, dozens of businesses were vandalised, with some of them even looted of their wares.

But the protests are having more widespread and serious monetary consequences. On Friday, the French retail federation told Reuters that French retailers had lost about $1.1 billion since the protests first began on 17 November.

City mayor Anne Hidalgo pleaded for an end to the Yellow Jacket riots, which have been going on for almost a month, where nearly 20 percent of the economy is related to tourism. Establishments like the restaurant and hotel trade have seen a decline in revenue between 20% and 50%.

The protests are bound to hit the tourism sector as Paris was visited by a record number of tourists in 2017 - more than 40 million, the Paris Tourism Office said last month.

According to another report, the continued protests could cost France’s Small and Medium-Sized Businesses an estimated $11 billion.

France's finance minister on Sunday pledged the government would help cover damages suffered by business during the latest Yellow Jackets riots, calling the destruction caused by protesters a "catastrophe for our economy."

"It's a time when normally business is going well, it's the eve of Christmas celebrations, and now, it's a catastrophe," Le Maire told reporters during a tour of a Paris neighborhood battered by the latest protests. "It's a catastrophe for business, it's a catastrophe for our economy."

The government will deliver a "very concrete and very direct" response to businesses affected by the violence, he said, adding: "The bills for the damages must be covered by the state, by solidarity, by the insurers."

President Emmanuel Macron - who many protesters want to stand down - will address the nation at 20:00 local time on Monday. He is expected to meet trade union and business leaders in the morning, according to union sources.