French economy grows with surge in business activity as country reopens

The French economy grew twice as fast as expected in the second quarter, the central bank said on Wednesday, as business activity surged after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.

French economy grows with surge in business activity as country reopens
The reopening of sectors including hospitality and tourism has provided a boost. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP

The Banque de France said that the eurozone’s second-biggest economy expanded by around 1.0 percent from the first three months of the year, while noting that supply bottlenecks and staff shortages had still combined to hobble the recovery.

The bank maintained a 2021 growth forecast of 5.75 percent, expecting activity to withstand the effects of a feared fourth wave of coronavirus infections.

The European Commission has estimated that the French economy will expand by 6.0 percent this year, the same figure floated last week by the national statistics agency Insee.

French authorities have remained a bit more cautious meanwhile, and are sticking for now to a full-year growth forecast of 5.0 percent.

“June was better than companies expected,” central bank general director Olivier Garnier was quoted as saying as he presented its latest monthly survey of company bosses.

Most industrial sectors showed improvement and there were strong advances in commercial sectors, especially among hotels and restaurants, the survey showed.

Several industrial sectors, notably aeronautics and automobiles, were still only at around three-quarters of the level seen before the pandemic however.

Tensions in supply chains and increases in the cost of raw materials were cited as factors holding activity back, especially in the automobile and construction sectors.

Hiring was a problem as well, with 44 percent of business leaders who responded to the bank survey highlighting problems finding qualified staff, in particular for construction and temporary work.

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France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.