More than two weeks of rioting by youths in France have left a mark on the country's less than shining economy.
The direct losses -- despite spectacular pictures of buses and carpet warehouses ablaze -- are small. It is France's image that has suffered the greatest damage.
Though it markets itself worldwide as a land of luxury, culture and savoir-vivre, France has now been seen pocked with poverty and violence. The French tourist industry fears that business may fall off during the important Christmas season as a result.
Meanwhile, France is having increasing trouble getting its budget deficit below 3 percent of GDP, as required by the EU's Stability and Growth Pact.
As befits his position, French Economics Minister Thierry Breton exudes optimism. The riots would not slow economic growth, he said.
Independent economic experts are not so sure, however. Analysts at Credit Agricole, France's largest bank, figure that the government will have to boost expenditures by 2 billion euros (US$2.334 billion). Simply fulfilling its promise to hike spending on urban renewal by 25 percent would cost a billion euros, they say.
On top of that come 5,000 more teachers and 100 million euros for organizations in the troubled neighborhoods, 70,000 additional scholarships, vocational advancement programs, five new tax-free zones for investors, and so forth.
Paying for all that probably means borrowing. So hopes of bringing the budget deficit under 3 percent again next year are shaky.
The direct losses due to the riots -- several hundred million euros -- are considerable but no greater than those caused by a serious storm. And there was no looting as in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Consequently, the French Federation of Insurance Companies (FFSA) is unruffled. It estimates 20 million euros in claims for the 6,600 cars that were torched, and puts total insurance claims -- including damage to sport facilities, schools and businesses -- at 200 million euros.
The sum is not peanuts for an industry that pays out 7 million euros in fire damage claims each year in France. It is no cause for concern either.
That leaves the collateral damage done to tourism. Companies offering city tours are especially worried, though they do not want to say so loudly.
It is hardly an invitation for a romantic honeymoon on the Seine when British correspondents on the Champs-Elysees write "Paris is burning," or when American TV reporters in France are seen wearing helmets and bulletproof vests.
According to French reports, up to 30 percent of the trips booked to Paris at travel agencies in the US have been cancelled since the riots.
It does not matter that most French people also experienced them only via the media -- or that no on ghetto for a holiday anyway. It is hard to assess security risks from afar.
So if France stays "hot," a lot of foreigners could decide to skip Paris at the turn of the year.
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