Dock dues tax: the colonial hangover that still costs French overseas citizens dear


One of the recurring complaints of consumers living in France's overseas regions is how high the cost of living is compared with Metropolitan France. At the heart of this criticism is the 'octroi de mer' or dock dues, a tax paid on the import of goods to these territories. This tax has been in place since 1670 and the start of the French colonial system. And the European Union has just agreed to continue it to at least 2027. Julien Sartre reports on the history and impact of a tax that is a throwback to colonial days and which still leaves a burden on often poor French consumers living in overseas départements.

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Far, far away from the postcard views and the marketing shots, rivers of metal flow each day along the shores of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Mayotte and La Réunion, gleaming in the sun. Every morning, evening, weekend and week tens of thousands of cars – many of them containing just the driver – make their way along the only roads that go around these French islands, and which link the commercial zones with the residential areas, the beaches with the most populated areas, and the remote spots to the centre. Traffic jams are the norm here and locals factor them into their lives; they are constant, unavoidable – and unbearable.