Hollande’s choice: It will take more than a government reshuffle to restore France’s economy. But is the required courage there?



As much the weakest president in the history the French Fifth Republic, there cannot be much confidence that François Hollande will fix the French economy’s deep-seated weaknesses. We can only hope that the President and Emmanuel Macron, his new Economy Minister, will succeed where their predecessors – of both parties – have failed so dismally. The record is discouraging.

Running scared after his disastrous showing in the local elections last spring, President Hollande appointed a leftist, Arnaud Montebourg, to run the economy. This was designed to do two things. First, it would offer the voters the (false) hope that there was some pain-free route out of their difficulties. Second, it was an act of appeasement towards the left of M Hollande’s Parti Socialiste. Well, much good it has done him. After only a matter of months M Hollande had to dissolve his government, M Mountebourg has taken the opportunity to deride his former boss, and, rather more important than any of that, the French economy remains resolutely unfixed.

One day we may learn whether President Hollande sincerely believed that M Mountebourg was really the answer to France’s problems. If he was sufficiently candid M Hollande might confess in his memoirs whether he ever seriously thought the manifesto he presented to the French people two years ago was sustainable, or just a clever, though cynical, exercise in flattering the well-known prejudices of the French electorate. Either way, M Hollande and his new team need some radically different policies if they are to succeed.

Video: France to continue with economic policies

The stakes could hardly be higher; France’s failure to adjust to globalisation has left her with dismal growth and unemployment that remains stubbornly high. At more than 10 per cent nationally, and concentrated among ethnic minorities in the banlieues, it remains a potent threat to France’s social cohesion, the very thing that M Hollande’s socialist approach was supposed to foster. As the second largest economy in the eurozone, France is “too big to fail” from the point of view of the single currency project; but she is also too big for even Germany to save. Without France there can be no euro, and without the euro the European project – the foundation of French policy  and identity since the Second World War  – will collapse.

M Hollande’s predecessor, President  Nicolas Sarkozy knew what needed to be  done, though he failed to convert analysis into solid legislation and achievement. As M Sarkozy could at least recognise, France, like much of the rest of the eurozone, desperately needs to free up her labour market; to shrink  the size of the state; to relieve business of  burdensome regulation; and to scrap her chauvinistic industrial policy, which deters foreign investment. A dose, in other words, of Anglo-Saxon Thatcherism as well as the “German” austerity is required – alien notions feared and loathed across France.

France has been fortunate to avoid the  “contagion” that spread from Greece to Spain, Portugal and Italy. That does not mean that investors will continue indefinitely to buy French government bonds issued by M Hollande. It is a brave leader indeed who  would confront the French people with  the current threats to their national and  European future. Unfortunately, bravery is a commodity currently in short supply at the Elysée Palace.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Trainer / IT Trainer

£30 to £32k : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Trainer / IT Trainer to join an a...

Recruitment Genius: Fence Installer - Commercial

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This privately owned Fencing Co...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £22,000

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you answer yes, this company...

Recruitment Genius: Project / Account Manager and IT Support

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leader in Online Pro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
From left: Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn, Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham at a televised Labour leadership debate  

Jeremy Corbyn wouldn't be so far ahead in the Labour leadership race if his rivals weren't so awful

Ash Burt

Giving children 'iRights' to delete what they put online sends the wrong moral message

Joe Rivers
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'