Rashmikant Patel: How I recovered after Imperial Bank collapse

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Rashmikant Patel: How I recovered after Imperial Bank collapse

Founder of Educational Scientific and Technical Equipment Company (ESTEC) Limited Rashmikant Patel pictured on November 20, 2023 at his office in Parklands, Nairobi.

Having come back from his studies in the UK in 1978, Rashmikant Patel joined a pharmaceutical firm as one of the partners. But as it turned out, one of his partners was also a partner at Educational Scientific and Technical Equipment Company (ESTEC).

In 1985, one of the owners of ESTEC Limited was relocating to the UK and offered Mr Patel the opportunity to manage the firm on a 25 percent profit-sharing basis, which he accepted.

“Unfortunately, our finances were quite low, and there was never enough money to import the equipment that I would have liked to import at that time,” says Mr Patel, the managing director at ESTEC, a supplier of analytical solutions to testing laboratories in East Africa.

In 1995, he purchased and took over the company, fully using the money he had borrowed from his father and selling his house.

“Slowly, I started running the business and retaining the profits generated in the business, unlike in the past when the other partner was still onboard,” recalls Mr Patel.

However, at the time, there was a flood of Chinese and Indian school equipment imports while ESTEC Limited was an agent of a British company, which was costly for schools, depressing his sales.

“I decided to look at the laboratory equipment market for manufacturing companies. One of our suppliers supplying us with medical equipment happened to be importing laboratory equipment too. So I decided to diversify to laboratory equipment for pharmaceutical manufacturers,” he says.

Mr Patel says it was a good time because the pharmaceutical sector was growing.

He says his family was never in business and being a pharmacist, he too had never run any business. This was like being thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool.

He says the major hurdle he had at the beginning was financing equipment imports and having bagged his first big sale with one of the leading pharmaceutical companies locally.

“Financing was the biggest challenge because nobody will offer you credit terms unless you are well established or have been doing business with them for a long time, especially when the goods are expensive like the equipment we sell,” says Mr Patel.

“A lot of people have got into trouble in businesses and fallen by the wayside due to a lack of finances.”

Mr Patel says he has learned never to have partners in a core business unless it is a separate company because it allows you to make the decisions you want and divert resources to what is more important to the business.

He adds that when he had partners, the state of the cash flow was poor.

“There are two things I learned from my partners: one is to never draw money out of the business if you want to grow it, especially the profits. For the growth of a company, you need finances that I unfortunately didn’t have,” he says.

Mr Patel adds that 2015 was a dark year for him when the Imperial Bank collapsed with all the company’s finances, including his savings, and he had to start afresh as a new business.

“We also had to borrow money from private people and get back on track. That was one of the biggest faults that we had,” he says, adding that some of their customers also agreed to pay for the supplies earlier than the allowed credit period and sold some of the stock at a reduced profit margin to boost sales.

And with that, Patel advises against having all your finances in one bank.

He says he wished he kept his house instead of using it as collateral to get financing and had the finances to go into sectors like medical laboratory equipment, but that it takes a lot of finances and workforce to go into different lines.

“You can only get financing through bank loans or overdrafts but using bank money to do business is also not very good because you can get into deep trouble,” he cautions.

Growth and milestones

He adds that ESTEC’s business strategy is more about providing technical support and meeting clients’ and industry needs, picking from regulations and that the market has been growing from a regulatory point of view.

“Kenya was one of the fastest-growing economies at that time, and there was a desire for exports to the neighbouring countries, and we used that to position ourselves in building our strengths to meet international and regional standards and requirements to be competitive.”

With that, ESTCE Limited has grown in the pharma, food testing, environmental research, academics, and petroleum sectors, as well as with more partners and suppliers.

The company, he says, aims to ensure that every product on the market is safe for human use.

“There are a lot of gaps in standardisation within the East African Community. Our strategy involves building capacity competence in the area of analytical testing space,” he says.

The company has a presence in Uganda and Tanzania and aims to expand in the region.

“We are looking to grow, but growth is always a slow process in the current economic climate. We are looking into Ethiopia and Rwanda in the next 10 years and take the expansion further.”

The company is also considering venturing into areas such as clinical testing as technology advances, adding that they may be open to partnerships, private equity, or firms in a similar field for synergy rather than a merger to finance that growth and expansion.

Human resources

Mr Patel says it is difficult to find very good human resources, and the company is willing to pay for the right talent.

“Initially, we were just hiring good salespeople, but we realised that in the specialised field, skills and knowledge are important, so we hire technical people with a scientific background,” he says.

The entrepreneur adds that attracting talent is a big concern given that the sector has a high turnover rate, with some of the employees quitting to start their businesses.

“You can imagine growing from 5 people to 40 without human resource personnel. It was a big challenge, and we needed a human resource person to guide us on recruitment, people management, and other aspects of human resource management,” adds Mr Patel.

The entrepreneur says managing expenses is one of the biggest issues in running a business, and one needs to cut costs when the business is not doing well, maintain a reasonable profit, and set a limit on pricing.

“This year has been the toughest in the last ten years, with sales going down for the last two years, but we are still afloat, but profitability is not what it used to be,” he says.

Mr Patel concludes by saying he attributes the company’s growth to the pharma industry and the support of the government, especially the regulators setting the standards for testing, which they cannot ignore.

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It is high time we helped the Global South deal with loss and damage

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

If we as a global society are committed to climate justice, it is vital that we address the chief injustice of Global South communities experiencing the devastating impacts of a crisis they did not cause, Heather McGray writes.


Loss and damage, a phrase which once upon a time was relegated to fringe events of major climate gatherings around the world, was last week sitting at the top of the agenda for the UN’s Climate Ambition Summit in New York — a major event within the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Rightly so. Loss and damage refers to the negative impacts of climate breakdown on humans, societies and the natural environment.

It is countries in the Global South for whom loss and damage is most significant.

Alongside untold levels of destruction to land, property and infrastructure — all of which have significant economic implications — these countries are put at a distinct disadvantage in terms of adaptation and mitigation efforts thanks to a complex series of financial challenges, including unsustainable debt, spiralling inflation and currency fluctuations.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Global South countries have contributed the least to the historic emissions that have fuelled our current predicament.

Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute estimates that depending on global efforts to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis, loss and damage costs, which go beyond adaptation, “could cost developing countries a total of $290-580 billion (€275.5-551bn) in 2030 and reach $US1-1.8 trillion (€950bn-1.7tn) in 2050.”

At COP28 this December, discussions of the Transitional Committee to operationalise a new fund for loss and damage will conclude, with every hope that finance for a raft of new initiatives can help empower communities across the Global South who are currently stuck between a rock and a hard place.

As discussions progress, addressing non-economic loss and damage will be key.

Not all losses are financially quantifiable

Non-economic loss and damage (NELD), sometimes called invaluable loss, refers to the harm caused by climate breakdown on human and natural systems that is difficult to put a price tag on.

NELD includes biodiversity loss, the loss of traditional knowledge and ways of living, and the trauma people experience when they’re forced to leave their homes or ancestral lands.

Take, for example, the devastating floods in Pakistan that took place last year. In economic terms, the floods cost the country around $40bn (€38bn) in damages.

However, the floods affected 33 million people and cost 1,600 lives. It destroyed over 2 million houses and damaged 13,000km of roads and 18,000km2 of cropland.

The impact of the displacement, the lives lost, the livelihoods destroyed, the education disrupted and the emotional toll that these events will have had on communities across Pakistan is unquantifiable in monetary terms.

The most vulnerable face the greatest challenges

Those facing the most severe non-economic loss and damage are often communities that face — or have long faced — injustices like discrimination, colonisation, or displacement from traditional lands.

Further, the most vulnerable people within these communities — often women, children, elders, or people with disabilities — face the greatest challenges.

Indeed, the most recent IPCC report mentioned for the first time the impact that loss and damage caused by the climate crisis has on mental health, outlining that those most negatively affected by climate breakdown are often the most vulnerable populations, such as Indigenous Peoples and people with disabilities.

The Climate Justice Resilience Fund (CJRF) works specifically with these marginalised groups, including women, youth and Indigenous Peoples, helping them create, share, and scale their own solutions for climate resilience.

Global South leaders must follow Scotland’s example

Just before the UN Climate Ambition Summit launched last week, the Scottish government announced it would renew its partnership with us at CJRF to program £5 million (€5.8m) in grants, technical assistance and advocacy, to address non-economic loss and damage for marginalised groups within communities across countries in the Global South who, like Pakistan, have been subjected to the devastating impacts of the climate crisis.


Funding from the Scottish Government will enable CJRF to continue its participatory approach to supporting activities to address loss and damage.

We’ll partner with organisations that have close connections to the communities across the Global South that they support.

Interventions will be community-led to ensure that the communities and individuals themselves are assessing their loss and damage and are empowered to identify how they want to address it.

The work that Scotland’s funding enables CJRF to do will help build a body of practical learnings.

These will be essential to the new L&D Fund, and to the global community as a whole, as we work together to address all forms of loss and damage affecting communities in the Global South.


We have to recognise all the impacts of climate breakdown

In a keynote speech at New York Climate Week, Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf stated that no community on Earth will be left untouched by the effects of the climate crisis, but that suffering will not be equally divided.

We urge leaders of developed nations to recognise all the impacts that climate breakdown is having on communities around the world — both economic and invaluable.

As COP28 approaches, leaders in the Global North must do all they can to stand up the Loss and Damage Fund, and to establish funding arrangements that enable communities to effectively address L&D, including NELD.

If we as a global society are committed to climate justice, it is vital that we address the chief injustice of Global South communities experiencing the devastating impacts of a crisis they did not cause.

Heather McGray serves as Director of the Climate Justice Resilience Fund, a grantmaking initiative supporting women, youth, and Indigenous Peoples in places severely impacted by climate change.


At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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‘Own what the Mother of All Bubbles crowd doesn’t.’ This market strategist expects stagflation and is investing for it now.

There’s always a bull market somewhere — if you can find it.

Keith McCullough encourages investors to join him in the hunt. You’ll need to be agnostic and open-minded, the CEO of investment service Hedgeye Risk Management says. If you’re wedded just to U.S. stocks, or the market’s latest darlings, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment — particularly in the hostile environment McCullough sees coming.

This coming challenge for U.S. stock investors, in a word, is stagflation, McCullough says. Stagflation — higher inflation plus slow- or no economic growth — is hardly a bullish outlook for stocks, but McCullough’s investment process looks for opportunties wherever they may be. Right now that’s led him to put money into health care, gold, Japan, India, Brazil and energy stocks, among others.

In this recent interview, which has been edited for length and clarity, McCullough takes the Federal Reserve and Chair Jerome Powell to the woodshed, offers a warning about the potential fallout from Powell’s upcoming speech at Jackson Hole, Wyo., and implores investors to discount happy talk and always watch what they do, not what they say.

MarketWatch: When we spoke in late May, you criticized the Federal Reserve for being obtuse and myopic in its response to inflation and, later, to the threat of recession. Has the Fed done anything since to give you more confidence?

McCullough: The Fed forecast of the probability of recession should be trusted as much as their “transitory” inflation forecast or a parlor game. People should not have confidence in the Fed’s forecast. The “no-landing” or “soft-landing” thesis is looking backwards. The Fed is grossly underestimating the future, doing what they always do, in looking at the recent past.

Their policy is wed to what they say. They claim they’re not going to cut interest rates until they get to their target. But any hint of the Fed arresting the tightening gives you more inflation. So there’s this perverse relationship where the Fed is the catalyst to bring back the inflation they’ve spent so much time fighting.

Read: ‘The Fed is way late and they’ve already screwed it up.’ This stock strategist is banking on gold, silver and Treasurys to weather a recession.

MarketWatch: U.S. Inflation has come down quite signficantly over the past year. Doesn’t that show the Fed is well on the way to achieving its 2% target?

McCullough: A lot of people are peacocking and declaring victory over inflation when we’re about to have reflation that sticks. We have inflation heading back towards 3.5% and staying there.

Our inflation forecast is that it’s set to reaccelerate in the next two inflation reports, which will lead to another rate hike in September. The Fed’s view is that until they get to the 2% target they’re not done. A lot of people are really confident because inflation went from 9% to 3% that it’s getting closer to 2%, therefore the Fed is done. Given what Fed Chair Jerome Powell said, the next two inflation reports are critical in determining whether we hike rates in September. I think maybe even one in November. This is a major catalyst for the next leg down in the equity market.

The Fed is going to see inflation go higher, and they’ve already articulated to Wall Street that no matter what happens, that should constitute a rate hike. That’s a policy mistake. They’re going to continue to tighten into a slowdown. When the Fed tightens into a slowdown, things blow up.

MarketWatch: By “things blow up,” you mean the stock market.

McCullough: I don’t think the Fed cuts interest rates until the stock market crashes. The Fed is going to be tightening when the U.S. economy and corporate profits are at a low point, going into the fourth quarter. It’s not dissimilar from 1987 where all of a sudden a market that looked fine got annihilated in very short order. There are a lot of similarities to 1987 now; the market’s quick start in January, people in love with stocks. That’s a catalyst for the stock market to crash.

When the Fed has an inconvenient rule, particularly for the U.S. stock market, they just move the goal posts or change the rule. If they actually started to cut interest rates, inflation would go up faster. This is exactly what happened in the 1970s and what Powell explains is the risk of going dovish too soon – that he becomes [much-criticized former Fed chair] Arthur Burns. That’s why you had rolling recessions in the 1970s; the Fed would go dovish, devalue the U.S. dollar
and the cost of living for Americans would reflate to levels that are prohibitive.

People can’t afford reflation at the gas pump, or in their health care. It’ll be fascinating to see how Powell pivots from fighting for the people to bailing out Wall Street from another stock market crash, which will therein create the next reflation.

‘The Federal Reserve has set the table for a major event in the U.S. stock market and the credit market.’

MarketWatch: Speaking of a Powell pivot, the Fed chair speaks at Jackson Hole this week. Last year he put markets on notice for rate hikes. What do you think he’ll say this time?

Powell’s going to see inflation accelerating. I think Jackson Hole is going to be a hawkish meeting. That might be the trigger for the stock market.

Take the bond market’s word for it.  The bond market is saying the Fed is going to remain tight and seriously consider another rate hike in September. The reasons why markets crash in October during recession is that the fourth quarter is when companies realize that there’s no soft landing and they need to guide down.

The Federal Reserve has set the table for a major event in the U.S. stock market and the credit market. We’re short high-yield and junk bonds through two ETFs: iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond
and SPDR Bloomberg High Yield Bond
On the equity side the best thing is to short the cyclicals; I would short the Russell 2000

MarketWatch: What’s your advice to stock investors right now about how to reposition their portfolios?

McCullough: Own what the “Mother of All Bubbles” crowd doesn’t. The things we’re most bullish on include gold
The Fed is going to keep short term rates high and both the 10 year and 30 year go lower. Gold trades with real interest rates. I think gold can go a lot higher, towards 2,150. Our ETF for gold is SPDR Gold Shares

Also, you can be long equities and not take on the heart-attack risk that is the U.S. stock market. I’m long Japanese equities — ETFs for this include iShares MSCI Japan
and iShares MSCI Japan Small-Cap

We’re long India with iShares MSCI India
and iShares MSCI India Small-Cap
Both Japan and India are accelerating economically. Were also long Brazil iShares MSCI Brazil
which is weighted to energy. We are bullish on energy.

MarketWatch: Clearly accelerating inflation and slowing economic growth is an unhealthy combination for both investors and consumers.

McCullough: What I’m looking for, with inflation reaccelerating, is stagflation.

Stagflation pays the rich and punishes the poor. You want to be the landlord. The prices of things people own are going to go up, and the prices of things you need to live are also going to go up. So for example, we are long energy, uranium and timber as stagflation plays. ETFs we’re using for that include Energy Select Sector SPDR
Global X Uranium
and iShares Global Timber & Forestry

One positive thing that happens from stagflation is that because it’s so hard to find real consumption growth, there’s a premium on the growth you can find.

If there is something that actually accelerates, then those stocks will work, which puts a nice premium on stock picking. You can be long anything that is accelerating because so many things are decelerating. So avoid U.S. consumer, retailers, industrials and financials, which are all decelerating. Health care is our favorite sector, which we own through the ETFs Simplify Health Care
and SPDR S&P Health Care Equipment

Instead, people are betting we’re going to go back to some crazy AI-led growth environment. Now everyone thinks everything is AI and rainbows and puppy dogs. I’m old enough to remember we were in a banking crisis in March. From an intermediate- to longer-term perspective, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to protect yourself until this inflation cycle plays out.

Also read: Jackson Hole: Fed’s Powell could join rather than fight bond vigilantes as yields surge

More: Will August’s stock-market stumble turn into a rout? Here’s what to watch, says Fundstrat’s Tom Lee.

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Paris summit aims to overhaul global financial system for ‘climate solidarity’ with South

Around 50 heads of state, along with representatives from international institutions and civil society, will attend a summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday and Friday in Paris. Their objective is to develop a new global financial system so the most vulnerable countries will be better equipped to combat both poverty and climate change.

The world’s wealthiest nations are demonstrating a “surge of solidarity” with those most vulnerable to climate change, said Cécile Duflot, president of the NGO Oxfam. Some 50 heads of state and government, representatives from international financial institutions, members of the private sector, climate experts and members of civil society will be attending the summit in Paris hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron on June 22 and 23. The objective of this ambitious conference is to “build a new contract between [the global] North and South”, according to the Élysée Palace.

Macron announced his intention to host this summit at the end of COP27 back in November, 2022. Environmentalists were not satisfied with how the climate negotiations had concluded. But in the final hours, a historic agreement was reached providing for the establishment of a fund to compensate for the effects of climate change suffered by developing countries. The initial aim of this week’s Summit for a New Global Financial Pact was to establish concrete measures to finance this fund. “From now on, the battle against poverty, the decarbonisation of our economy and the fight for biodiversity will be very closely linked,” Macron said at the time.

In the months since, the stakes have only heightened for countries in the Global South due to the combined fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis and galloping inflation. In the Palais Brongniart at Place de la Bourse, once the seat of the Paris stock exchange in the 2nd arrondissement (district), the hundreds of attendees will attempt to lay the foundations for an overhaul of the entire global financial system by adapting the post-war Bretton Woods institutions – the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank – to today’s challenges.

On Wednesday, 13 political leaders – including Macron, US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – wrote that they are “urgently working to fight poverty and inequalities” in a contribution to French daily newspaper Le Monde.

“Climate change will generate larger and more frequent disasters, and disproportionately affect the poorest, most vulnerable populations around the world,” they wrote. “These challenges cross borders and pose existential risks to societies and economies.”

“We want our system to deliver more for the planet.”

Colossal financial needs

The financial needs of the Global South are colossal. A group of independent experts, specialising in climate finance and working under the auspices of the United Nations, estimated last year that the world needs to allocate $1 trillion a year between now and 2030 for developing countries besides China to respond to the climate and biodiversity crisis.

Oxfam estimates that $27 trillion will have to be mobilised to “fight poverty, inequality and climate change in developing countries” between now and 2030, i.e., around $3.9 trillion a year. The World Bank put this estimate even higher, outlining in its 2021 climate action plan that $4 trillion a year will be needed between now and 2030 to build infrastructure that meets the needs of developing countries.

Governments present at the summit for a new global financial pact this week will not be making financial pledges but are instead expected to discuss the most effective means of financing. The first items on the agenda are those based on already established commitments.

“Developed countries have already pledged to allocate 0.7% of their wealth to developing countries and to contribute $100 billion to the climate. But for the moment, these funds have only been partially distributed, if at all,” said Désiré Assogbavi, the director for French-speaking Africa at ONE, a global anti-poverty NGO, at a press conference on Tuesday.

G7 countries in 2021 considered reallocating $100 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), an IMF reserve currency that is proportional to a country’s capital, to developing countries.

“This measure has been blocked in the eurozone, but this could easily be resolved by a political decision,” said Assogbavi, calling for the blockage to be lifted “by the end of the year”.

“On the last day of the summit, we hope that very clear mechanisms will be announced so that each of these commitments can be implemented.”

Taxes on major polluters and financial transactions

At the same time, new sources of funding will need to be explored. Within civil society, several associations and NGOs are already putting forward a number of ideas. First, they are calling for taxes to be introduced on the biggest polluters, in particular fossil fuel companies, due to “their historic responsibility for climate chaos”. In early June, 12 associations signed a petition asking Macron to tax the fossil fuel industry. They had gathered more than 31,000 signatures as of June 21. “This tax would enable us to raise up to $300 trillion,” said Fanny Petitbon, head of advocacy for the NGO CARE France.

“Why not also introduce a tax on financial transactions, which would raise $440 billion?” asked Petitbon. The principle of this tax is simple: given the scale of the transactions carried out on the financial markets, applying even a very low tax rate would help raise significant tax revenue without having any impact on how the markets work.

Ahead of the Paris summit, only a consensus on taxing maritime transport seems to be emerging, which could generate between $60 and $80 billion a year, according to the World Bank. “The subject could come to fruition in July when the International Maritime Organisation meets,” said Petitbon. “But the question of how the money will be used has yet to be decided. While some advocate that it should go to developing countries, others are calling for it to be used to decarbonise the maritime sector.”

Debt relief

In addition to the major issue of financing, the other dossier on the table is the debt owed by developing countries. “Debt servicing for developing countries is at its highest level since the end of the 1990s, and 93% of the countries most vulnerable to climate-related disasters are over-indebted, or not far from it,” said Lison Rehbinder, development finance advocacy officer at the CCFD-Terre Solidaire NGO.

“Today, countries in crisis are forced to repay their debts to creditor states, financial institutions and private banks, and this prevents them from investing in public services or fighting against climate change,” she said.

For the moment, the plan under discussion is to introduce clauses in loan contracts that would allow repayments to be suspended in the event of a climate disaster, according to Rehbinder. Adopted by G20 countries during the Covid-19 pandemic, this measure would become automatic. “But we need to go further and think about large-scale debt cancellation,” she said. “That’s the only way for countries to get their heads above water.”

Harjeet Singh, head of global policy strategy at Climate Action Network International, agreed. “The richest countries continue to mostly provide the countries of the South with loans – in 2020, grants accounted for just 26% of committed climate funding,” he said. “The fight against climate change must quickly move away from this profit-driven logic.”

The associations argue that it will only be possible to implement all these measures if the major multilateral development banks, primarily the World Bank, adopt bolder lending policies.

Political will

France acknowledges, however, that Paris will not be able to make any concrete decisions at this summit. According to the Élysée Palace, the meeting’s main purpose is to draw up a guide that will be used at the next G20 summit in India in September, the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank in October, and COP28 in Dubai in early December.

“This event will put many important issues at the centre of international discussions,” said Duflot. “Unfortunately, it is still too unambitious, though we can no longer wait to implement far-reaching solutions.”

“It’s not the money that’s lacking, but the political will. The heads of government must now shoulder their responsibilities,” said Petitbon. “Because beyond funding, it’s all about rebuilding trust between the countries of the North and South.”

This article has been translated from the original in French

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‘Macron resign!’: French president struggles to move on from pension controversy

Issued on: Modified:

French President Emmanuel Macron only just dodged another day of heckles and boos from opponents of the controversial pension reform. But a war of attrition aimed at the president and his government looks to have no sign of letting up, with pots and pans the weapons of choice.

President Macron’s first trip to a French region since signing his unpopular pension reform didn’t go down well. The photos and videos taken on Wednesday 19 April bear witness of the flop. Crowds of protestors booed as he stepped foot in the small town of Sélestat in eastern France’s Alsace region, banging pots and chanting “Macron resign!”

It was time to take new photos, tell a new story. That of a population who appreciates their president and who are in favour of the pension reform. Or at the very least, who understand the need to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 64. So Macron did what he deemed necessary.

#PotsAndPans for Macron

The following day, Macron made his way to Ganges in southern France. But before his arrival, the president ordered police to keep protestors away from the school he would be visiting. A decree banning the use of “portable sound devices” was also issued by local authorities, to avoid any unwanted background noise. In other words, no pots or pans allowed.

The measures allowed Macron to carry out a rather peaceful exchange with students, who were all delighted to meet him. Later that afternoon, the president made an unscheduled stop in Pérols, a small town near Montpellier airport. With his blazer flung over one shoulder, he strolled nonchalantly through cobbled streets before sitting down to have a beer and some tapas, taking selfies with teens and chatting to locals who encouraged him to hold steady.

In the three months after announcing the deeply unpopular pension reform, Macron made very few public appearances to speak to voters. These trips outside of Paris are a way for him to signal his willingness to turn the page and show is he not hiding from voters, many of whom are outraged by the way the legislation was passed. And each stop has been carefully planned.

Inhabitants of the Hérault region where Macron made his second visit put him in third place during the first round of France’s 2022 presidential elections, with 22.28% of votes. In Pérols, that number reached 28.52%, granting Macron first place.

But will the shots of Macron drinking beer on a sunny terrace or chummily shaking hands with locals be enough for France to move on and accept the reforms? Can they erase three months of tensions, furious disputes and riots brought on by his deeply unpopular decision to reform France’s pension system? Nothing is less certain as his opponents seem determined to grind Macron’s administration and reforms down into the mire.

Unions disrupt Macron’s visit to Notre Dam

After his Monday night speech on primetime TV where he called for “100 days of calm discusion, a real action plan and unity for France”, Macron’s speech in fact annoyed the French public.

After organising months of record-breaking strikes and protests, French unions have turned to a form of permanent harassment with “unwelcome committees” aimed at disrupting each visit the president or his members of government have planned. French organisation Attac (Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens) even created an interactive map for all upcoming rallies.

In addition to the “unwelcome committees” organised by unions, other methods aimed at disrupting the nationwide visits have popped up. President Macron experienced power cuts while visiting a company in Muttersholtz, but also at Montpellier airport and at the school in Ganges, where he was forced to carry out his meeting in an outdoor playground.

During his visit to Notre-Dame on April 14, the CGT union managed to get their voices heard despite authorities evacuating the cathedral’s surroundings. Vehicles and even a typically Parisian “bateau-mouche” boat on the Seine drove around the premises with banners reading “Macron, quit!”

Left-wing political opponents urged supporters to bash pots and pans during his Monday TV address, and the age-old tactic has become an audible sign of anger at Macron’s policies. Hashtags like #MacronChallenge and PotandPanChallenge” have taken Twitter by storm to glavinise the public. 

Disrupted or cancelled visits

And so far, the new strategy adopted by French unions has worked. The list of disrupted visits keeps getting longer. 

On Wednesday evening, Digital Transition Minister Jean-Noël Barrot was greeted by dozens of protestors with pots and pans in Agen, where he was to hold a conference in a brewery. Union members then disrupted the event with a power cut, leaving participants in the dark.

A similar cacophonic concert of pot and pan bashing was granted to Ecology Minister Christophe Béchu on Wednesday in the Sarthe region, where a score of protestors held up a banner reading “the government perseveres, so do we”.

And on Friday afternoon, Health Minister François Braun was “welcomed” by 250 demonstrators in Montreuil who, bashing pots and pans, spoke to him about their opposition to the reform, an AFP journalist reported. 

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti decided to postpone a visit to a prison in southeast France “for a few weeks”, but his entourage insist that this is due to “judicial vacations”, not planned protests.

Secretary of State for Youth Sarah El Haïri cancelled her trip to Nantes, dedicated to the Universal National Service (SNU), a voluntary civil conscription service implemented by Macron in 2021. The event had to stop after one hour due to protests. And the Minister of Higher Education Sylvie Retailleau also cancelled a planned visit to the Saclay University in Paris, meant to take place on Tuesday

How long will these protest and disruptions last? No one knows. But the French Football Cup final on April 29, where the president typically greets players of both teams, and the new day of mass protest on May 1, Labour Day, is very much on everyone’s minds.

This article was translated from the original in French.

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