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

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
The report will embarrass the Home Secretary, Theresa May  

Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have 'dropped off' the Home Office’s radar

Nigel Farage
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas