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A cyclist passes by a closed petrol station in Caen, western France. Michel Euler/AP

French strikes costing economy €400 million a day

Measures to try and secure the economy are so unpopular that the strikes across France are hurting it even more.

THE STRIKES TAKING PLACE across France that have left much of the country without fuel – as staff at pumps across the country down tools in protest at a series of controversial pension reform measures – are costing the country between €200m and €400m a day, according to the country’s finance minister.

Finance minister Christine Lagarde made the estimate when speaking on national radio, saying that the country was being hamstrung by the shortages and were detrimental to the overall good of the nation.

“Today, we shouldn’t be weighing down this recovery with campaigns that are painful for the French economy and very painful for a certain number of small and medium-sized businesses,” she told Europe 1 radio, according to al-Jazeera.

“Beyond the costs, which are difficult to measure, it damages the attractiveness of France,” she added.

The French senate passed the controversial measures on Friday night, which increased both the retirement age (to 62) and the age for a full state pension (to 67) by two years.

Despite the measures being put into law, industrial action across the country is continuing with Bloomberg reporting that a refiners’ group is on strike today, and with the country’s 11 oil refineries taking action until at least Thursday.

Lagarde added that her ministry had inspected over 2,000 petrol pumps to ensure that owners were not raising prices artificially to exploit the shortages, and had issued 40 fines to offending outlets.

About a quarter of the country’s gas stations are entirely empty, while a fifth of the high-speed TGV rail services have been cancelled.

The true economic impact of the strikes will begin to show on November 12 when the country reports its GDP for the third quarter, though with the bulk of public disquiet taking place after September 30 it may not be until mid-February that the full impact is clear.

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