LETTER : France stifled by bureaucracy

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Sir: Robert Winder misses the point about the French by confusing culture with overweight bureaucracy as if they were the same thing ("The French could turn out to be heroes", 24 June).

I have travelled to France every year for about 20 years and the ordinary small businessman, restaurateur, wine grower is now at the end of his tether about the number of functionaries in safe jobs that have to be paid for out of taxation. A friend of mine who owns a small logis (a restaurant with 11 bedrooms) in Burgundy was visited this year by no fewer than seven petty bureaucrats to examine his fire precautions. Meanwhile he dare not employ another person because of the up-front costs followed by employment costs imposed by other functionaries in safe jobs. I heard the same story everywhere.

Yes, the French believe that life should be comfortable and fun, but the cost of this overweight and inflexible burden is nothing to do with fun or the culture of food, literature, music, etc. Neither do most people believe it makes cultural sense that taxes should pay for subsidising an uncompetitive Air France and France Telecom. Mario Vargas Llosa ("The disaster striking France", 20 June) is right; the French people are suffering because their politicians do not have the courage to root out protectionism in the state sector and develop policies that promote real jobs.


London NW11