French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to raise the retirement age in France has caused a national strike, according to BBC.
Sarkozy plans to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62. Jean-Francois Cope, president of the ruling UMP party of the French Assembly, agrees with Sarkozy, stating that the reform is unavoidable.
The national strike has taken quite a toll on the whole country, mainly in the areas of transportation and education. Also, over 4,000 gas stations have run dry.
The French police continue to clash with the strikers in several cities; shops have been looted in Lyon and cars set on fire in Paris.
Effect On Petrol Stations
The strikers have blocked off several petrol (gasoline) stations in France, which has caused the French government to tap into its fuel reserves, according to BBC.
The French police have attempted to clear protesters from the fuel depots and have effectively opened three sites in western France.
One in three fuel stations has run dry, and all 12 refineries within the French borders have been affected by the protest.
Brice Hortefeux, the French interior minister, has authorized the use of paramilitary police to break fuel blockades. While he respects that the people have a right to protest, that right does not include pillaging fuel stations.
The paramilitary police would be the equivalent to American S.W.A.T teams, who routinely handle hostage situations, not protests.
In southern France, protesters have blocked a fuel depot at Trapil, which supplies military and civilian airports. As a result, flights are being delayed and canceled.
Furthermore, strikers have stopped the production of petrol at three important sites, which the Sud Energy union claimed was about 60 percent of France’s gas storage capacity.
Effect On Transportation
According to BBC, the national rail operator, the SNCF, stated they expect at least two-thirds of their high-speed trains to be running on schedule within the week.
However, transport workers are continuing to protest, making a full, up-and-running train system difficult to accomplish at this point.
Close to 300 workers protested at France’s main airport, Roissy-Charles de Gaulle, plugging up the main terminal building.
According to BBC, the protesters sang the French national anthem before elbowing their way through a police barricade, sounding their whistles and waving their flags.
Sarkozy’s Approval Rating
President Sarkozy’s approval rating has dropped a full 30 percent, according to BBC. This is the lowest his approval rating has been in the past three years.
Furthermore, the number of French citizens with a negative disposition toward Sarkozy rose five points from September, totaling out at 69 percent.
What Sarkozy Plans To Do About The Protesting
In short, Sarkozy will not be doing much about the protests. According to BBC, he has insisted that he will go ahead with pension reform plans to raise the retirement age.
The upper house of the French legislature plans to vote on the pension reform later in the week. The reform is expected to pass.
Is America In Need Of Pension Reform?
According to Yahoo!, in 2010, the American economy will pay out more benefits than it receives in payroll. This is the first time this has happened since 1983.
By 2037, Social Security reserves are expected to be depleted, and only 75 percent of benefits will be able to be paid.
To boot, America’s state and local employee pensions are underfunded by $3 trillion. This is the sole reason why governors like Arnold Schwarzenegger have proposed pension reforms statewide in California.
The scope goes beyond just the French and American economies, impacting the global economy as a whole. As it continues to shake, with the American dollar falling and the near collapse of the Euro in 2009, pension reform seems a viable way to overcome our National debt crisis.
If Washington goes in the same direction, we are likely to see protests such as those in France. However, the longer Washington waits for pension reform (which is, arguably, vital to keeping our economy up-and-running), the more expensive the reform becomes.
French Strikes Over Pension Reform Hold Lesson For The US And Other Countries – Yahoo!
French In Front Line To Keep Pension Rights – BBC
French Police Frustrated By New Strike Blockades – BBC