France: Cost of protests, new measures reaches $11 billion

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

PARIS (AP) — Tax relief and other fiscal measures announced by French President Emmanuel Macron to try to calm nationwide protests will cost $11 billion, the government said Tuesday. In parliament, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe went to bat for Macron's measures, calling them "massive" and proof that he "has heard the anger."

After weeks of often violent demonstrations by so-called yellow vest protesters, Macron responded Monday with measures to boost the spending power of retirees and workers, including a 100-euro hike in the minimum monthly wage.

Retreating in the face of yellow vest demands is proving to be a costly exercise. The government says the total bill of conciliatory climbdowns so far will be around $11 billion. That includes money for Macron's new measures announced Monday and the loss of money because the government will no longer levy from its now abandoned carbon tax hike on fossil fuels.

In addition, the protests, including blockades of roads, have also caused economic losses to businesses that have lost customers in city and town centers hit by rioting.

There have also been five protest-related deaths and 1,407 people injured, 46 of them seriously, according to the government's count. More demonstrations are expected Saturday.

The prime minister said the government wants to make jobs pay better without hurting business competitiveness. Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said the government will make savings in the state budget to help finance the measures.