Monday, December 03, 2007

Sarkozy's pivotal battle: to transform "la France du refus"

Nicolas Sarkozy faces his pivotal battle, writes William Langley: to transform the 'France that will not change'. Meanwhile, John Vinocur describes how the Président means "to dissolve the taboos that for a generation made a reactionary concept for the French out of the idea that greater effort equals greater productivity and greater reward."
Langley: France has it in for everybody who wants to be left alone to run a business. Consumed by a statist allegiance to what it regards as equality in the workplace, the country has effectively abolished the right of anyone to take a low-paid job. It not only imposes Europe's highest minimum wage - about £800 a month - but layers it with complicated and costly regulations about who can work where, for how long and in what conditions. In doing so, it has effectively closed the labour market door in the faces of the poorly educated and mostly ill-qualified youths of places such as Villiers-le-Bel, where the unemployment rate frequently touches 60 per cent.

…Pleasant as it is to find a backstreet bistro run by lace-hatted crones, where nothing appears to have changed for centuries, the changelessness in France is an expensive illusion. The crones will be paying 50 per cent income tax and 19.6 per cent VAT, plus property tax, business tax, rubbish collection tax, licensed premises tax and a "solidarity" tax to support the unemployed. "How," asks the President, "can we continue to believe that by taxing more and working fewer hours, we can ever create wealth and jobs?"

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