France’s major banks have agreed to freeze the fees they charge next year in an effort to stop “yellow vest” protests that have recently hit central Paris.
According to Reuters, President Emmanuel Macron met with some of the country’s top bankers to figure out how to alleviate the cost of living for French households. The CEOs of BNP Paribas, Societe Generale, Credit Agricole and other non-listed banks were in attendance, and agreed on freezing the fees as well as placing a cap on overdraft fees. The move will lead to between 500 million and 600 million euros ($682 million) in spending power for the banks’ retail customers.
During an address on Monday (December 10), Macron also announced wage increases for the country’s poorest workers, tax cuts for pensioners and other measures to defuse weeks of protests which started after a fuel tax was proposed by Macron’s administration. Although the tax has been abandoned, the protests continue over other economic policies and unemployment rates, clogging streets and leading to violence and arrests. As a result, many retail stores have boarded up their locations in key shopping districts, such as the Opera district and the streets lining the Champs-Élysées, during the critical holiday season.
The protests have caused the country’s economy to take a major hit, enough so that expectations for economic growth are being downgraded. In fact, France’s central bank cut its economic growth projections for the current (fourth) quarter. And Francois Asselin, who heads the CPME confederation of small and mid-sized businesses, recently wrote that protests will cost SMEs as much as $11.4 billion USD and that lost sales for retailers to date have totaled more than $1.1 billion.
In addition, the tourist trade has also been affected, with tourist reservations in Paris cut by as much as 50 percent year on year.