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

 

Share

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

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Social Media Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Busy, friendly and creative marketing ag...

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm - London

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London  

When rents are so high that you have to share a bed with a stranger, surely the revolution can’t be far off

Grace Dent
 

A smear test could, quite literally, save your life. It saved mine

Emma Duke
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project