Thursday, June 09, 2005

Confusion in L'Hexagon

Is this the consequence of the French government spinning too hard in any and all directions? Are they a rich nation, a poor people? Who can even tell anymore?

Selected, not elected, Dominique de Villepin has been appointed PM under what are being made out to be emergency conditons. says he's got a 100 days to structurally modify France's economy to reduce unemployment. His honesty in this matter is refreshing, as are his effort to construct some optimism. In a healthy economic environment, France is showing a disppointing batting average.

A roundup of the european bankers had the following advice for De Villepin:

"My basic message would be to cut regulation...

-Julan Callow, Chief European Economist, Barklays Capital, London

"If Villepain is to succeed, he's going to have to seriously deregulate the French economy, and scrap the 35 hour work week entirely"

- Jim Power, Chief Economist, Friends First, Dublin

We were a socialist country with huge social security payments. We had to reform that, and we are still going through that process. I don't think France really is taking the right approach.

- Gyorgy Barcza, Economist, ING Bank (Hungary), Budapest.

The French elite view some markets as a kind of enemy...

- Carsten Valgreen, Chief Economist, Danske Bank, Copenhagen

In the IHT (Wednesday, page 6), Margaret Blunden points out that not only is Britain quietly more "Gallic" than it's image would indicate, that France is a lot more "Anglo-saxon". Setting aside the tribalist or racial foundations of these characterizations which have become popular in France, she also says that France has already swallowed the "bitter pill" of economic liberalization. The basic indicators show little sign of this, as does a having the most job protection as well as the most job security.

In the same days fishwrap, Thomas Fuller (page 3,) points out that: «The paradox for the French according to the OECD is that despite the layers of job protection, they [the French] feel significantly less secure in their jobs than Americans, Danes, [the] British, or Canadians - all of whom have less legal job protection.»

What they really needed was an enema, not a pill:

"They cannot continue to complain and do nothing," [said the OECD's Raymond] Torres said of France.

The rest of the world is accustomed with today's economic theories, which have benefited billions of people worldwide. France public view (I think somewhat falsely) seem to join a small group of cultures that seems bewildered by the way it functions, among whom are the likes of North Korea and Zimbabwe who are trying hard to keep the world out in one way or another. The policies and indicators reveal what's going on - and it's something which no public affairs effort acting as a placebo can rewrite.

The script, though is a familiar one. Constructed hatreds are made useful by those who want neither to change, nor support themselves. The familiar term is “moocher”, and the socialists of Europe suffer from this affliction greatly. How long, do you think, will the world keep listening to complaints and accusations pointed at any and all directions?

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