French finance minister warns of job losses and bankruptcies in 2021

The coronavirus crisis is likely to take an even bigger toll on the French economy this year than in 2020, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned Thursday, promising to continue supporting the hardest-hit sectors.

French finance minister warns of job losses and bankruptcies in 2021
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. Photo: AFP

“The hardest is still to come, we're going to have to show considerable strength of character,” Le Maire said in a video conference with the Institut Montaigne think-tank.

His comments came as Prime Minister Jean Castex prepares to outline efforts to speed up vaccinations and possibly tougher measures to curb infections as the number of new cases continues to grow.

READ ALSO: What can we expect from the French government's Covid-19 announcement?

Authorities reported 25,379 new daily cases and 291 deaths on Wednesday, with experts warning of a coming surge in the wake of extensive family travel over the holidays.

“We are dealing with a virus that isn't going away,” Le Maire said.

“There will be more bankruptcies in 2021 than in 2020… which will result in job losses over a certain period that will be difficult to absorb.”

The government has forecast economic growth of six percent this year, after an expected nine percent plunge last year.

France has spent billions of euros to limit job cuts and keep businesses from going under, in particular hotels and restaurants, cinemas and other cultural institutions, and the sports sector.

ANALYSIS: Will Macron's €100,000,000,000 rescue plan be enough to save France?

Restaurants and hotels, which are pushing to increase aid packages to three million euros per business, had been hoping to be allowed to reopen on January 20th.

But officials have indicated that they are likely to remain closed as authorities brace for tougher Covid-19 restrictions, similar to those taken recently in England or Germany.

“We are not going to let them fail, we will spend the money that is necessary,” Le Maire said.

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Natural disaster costs hit 23-year high in France

Natural disasters cost French insurers €10 billion last year, a two-decade high as such events become more frequent and intense, the head of the sector's federation said on Thursday.

Natural disaster costs hit 23-year high in France

“It was an annus horribilis,” France Assureurs president Florence Lustman told Europe 1 radio, citing the hailstorms, floods and droughts that hit the country last year.

Natural disasters cost the industry €3.5 billion on average per year between 2017-2021.

The 2022 figure is the highest since storms pummelled France in 1999.

The insurance federation said the bill from natural disasters will exceed €140 billion over the next 30 years, double the amount for the previous three decades.

Reinsurance giant Swiss Re said in December that natural and man-made catastrophes caused $268 billion of economic losses worldwide in 2022.