For almost a month it seems like France is in a little bit of an anarchy. Since the 17th of November there are protests of the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ or ‘yellow vests’ in English. The protests were initially about a tax on fuel being increased, but right now the French are demonstrating about all sorts of things with poverty being the main theme of the protests.
Personally I feel that there is a stigma in my head regarding the French and protesting: it seems that whenever there is something that the French do not agree with they all massively strike and protest. I do not know why my head makes this connection, but what I do know is that to me a new French protest seems less impactful as there have been many in the past. Think, for instance, about the French revolution. Nonetheless, after reading into the subject it seems to me this protest can and most likely will make a change, and that the reason for the protest itself seems justified.
Past Monday president Macron reacted on the protests, and while he previously noted that he would not be influenced by the ‘troublemakers’, he now said that he thinks the anger is justified, but that the violence at the protests is a threat to freedom. Furthermore he made concessions. For instance, the minimum wage will be raised by 100 euro per month. Earlier Macron already promised to delay the fuel tax by at least six months.
The most controversial change in taxes that is still planned to happen is a capital tax that will be removed. This removal would be most profitable for the richest in France, and the poorest do not agree with this. Macron thinks that the removal of the tax is necessary as he claims that the richest in France would find the tax too heavy and would consequently leave France. This would lead to less investments in the French economy, and therefore the tax will have to be removed. To me this reasoning sounds an awful lot like Rutte’s argument to abolish the dividend tax. While in Rutte’s case the threat was that large companies such as Shell or Unilever would leave, with Macron certain individuals leaving would apparently have a large effect. The biggest difference though is that in France many more people are willing to protest for it than in the Netherlands.
Meanwhile the French minister of Finance reports that the protests are a disaster for the French economy. Because of the protests there are, for example, less tourists. There were 40 to 50 percent less bookings in hotels, partly because of all the news from France. Big shops are closed in Paris as they fear being plundered by the protesters and so do museums. Nonetheless there are still small shops being plundered, robbed and vandalised. The total value of the damage for the shop owners is at least a billion euro. This is also because it is nearly Christmastime: This would have been the perfect time for the French to buy presents for their friends and family if the shops had been open.
In short, it is chaos in Paris. No matter if the protests are violent or peaceful, the protesters are not at work. It is not illogical that they do not agree with the plans. The planned changes can certainly be seen as unfair by the lower class of France. Until there is a result out of the discussions the land will be as Macron stated: “In an economic and social state of emergency”. My advice, as someone who would like to see the country back on its feet again while understanding the complaints of the protesters: discuss the problems again with Macron. The protesters currently have a lot of media attention and Macron can feel the pressure, so maybe he will budge even more. There is however, a moment where everyone is just angry even though the demands are being met. Do not let it come so far. Let the shops be able to open and celebrate Christmas. Christmas is a time of giving, so if the protesters will give Macron a little more breathing space maybe he will give them more concessions.