France may recently have suffered a credit agency downgrade, but President Nicolas Sarkozy's triple-A lifestyle in the Elysée Palace has been skewered in a new book.
Why should the French presidency, under Mr Sarkozy, operate twice as many cars as before? Why should President Sarkozy spend twice as much time travelling as his predecessor, President Jacques Chirac? Why does Mr Sarkozy spend an average of more than three hours a day in an aircraft?
L'Argent de l'Etat by René Dosière, an opposition Socialist politician who has chosen to publish the book less than three months before the presidential election, raises some awkward questions about the spending of both President Sarkozy and his Prime Minister François Fillon, at a time when national and local budgets are being squeezed.
Mr Dosière, a veteran campaigner against state extravagance, gives Mr Sarkozy credit where it is due. Unlike his predecessors, the President publishes an annual budget – €113m a year – for the expenses of the Elysée Palace.
Nonetheless, some bizarre and intriguing facts emerge. The Sarkozy Elysée operates 121 cars, compared to 55 under Mr Chirac. President Sarkozy travels twice as much as his predecessor. Since the beginning of his presidency, he has spent average of 24 hours a week in the air. About €10,000 a day is spent on food.
You may think a French President should occasionally take one of the country's high-speed trains. In fact, for security and cost reasons, this is impossible. An ancient rule demands a policeman must stand beside every railway bridge. As it is, every provincial trip by the President costs an average of €600,000,.
Mr Sarkozy's love of summitry is also examined by Mr Dosière. In 2008, the President hosted a two-hour long summit which cost the French taxpayer €17m – the equivalent of €58,000 a minute.
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