Macron, Monopoly & France

Those who have played this board game know that when one of the players owes money to one of his opponents and he has no more cash to pay his debt, he must, as a last solution, mortgage his property. Isn’t Macron, the political representative of the French people, just doing the same?

In my December 11th article on strikes, I wrote that the French unions, which represent a small minority of the working population (11%), should not worry because the government [was] already procrastinating the reforms that our European neighbors had achieved several years ago.[1]see: Transportation During the French Strikes: Solutions exist, available at: https://contrib.city/index.php/2019/12 / 11 / transport-pendant-the-greves-des-half decisions /. After having given up abolishing the special pensions,[2]Most of state-owned companies as the French railways both national (SNCF) or regional (RATP), the French Post Office (La Poste), old employees from the Gas (GDF) or Electricity (EDF)… have special pensions frames – the Régimes Spéciaux – that (will) allow them to go for retirement earlier than the remaining French working population but who is largely contributing to the costs of those pensions Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, on January 12th, has postponed sine die one of the flagship measures, and which had the merit of being clear, I want to talk about the pivotal age (âge pivot, in French).

However, because of the demographic aging – the number of elderly people is increasing and the number of young people falling – our distribution system (vs the capitalisation one used by some other countries) cannot continue to function without changing its parameters: either we increase the contribution share (or tax), or we contribute longer, or we reduce the amount of retirement. So much for the theory. In reality, what is happening behind the media curtain is that a minority would like to continue to benefit from its advantages stemming from their public enterprise and not from the characteristics (arduousness) of their work. In addition, this aging of the French population is slowing economic growth: in fact, a demographic slowdown leads, in the long term, to a drop in household demand for equipment [3]GODET Michel, Le courage du bon sens – Pour construire l’avenir autrement (Courage of common sense – To build the future differently), Paris, Odile Jacob, 2007, p143 See also: BLANCHET Didier, LEGROS Florence, « Démographie : tendances, incertitudes, implications » (Demography: trends, uncertainties, implications), Revue économique 2008/5 (Vol.59), pp 861 – 868, Paris, Presses de Sciences-Po, [accessed January 13, 2020]. Available at: https://www.cairn.info/revue-economique-2008-5-page-861.htm. See also: OECD DATA , Fertility rate, [accessed January 13, 2020]. Available at: https://data.oecd.org/fr/pop/taux-de-fecondite.htm. Read also: INSEE, Tableaux de l’économie française, édition 2018 – naissances, fécondité (Tables of the French economy – Birth, fertility), February 27th, 2018, [accessed January 13, 2020]. Available at: https://www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/3303349 ? summary = 3353488 Read also: ENS Lyon, 2018 Demographic Review – INSEE, January 2019, [accessed January 13, 2020]. Available at: http://ses.ens-lyon.fr/actualites/rapports-etudes-et-4-pages/bilan-demographique-2018-insee-janvier-2019. Read too: ZAGDOUN Benoît, “Does France have a high fertility rate because immigrants have many children?”, France Info, January 11, 2019, [accessed January 13, 2020]. Available at: https://www.francetvinfo.fr/societe/la-france-a-t-elle-un-taux-de-fecondite-eleve-parce-que-les-immigrees-font-beaucoup-d-enfants_3529477 .html and therefore a drop in business investment and consequently a drop in both private and public revenues. The French organization of pensions is therefore not sustainable. On January 10th, economist Jean-Marc Daniel reported that France’s public debt had reached 100% of French GDP [4]DANIEL Jean-Marc, « Retraites, arrêtez tout ! » (Pensions, STOP everything!) in «Le contre-pied», BFM Business, January 10, 2020, [accessed 01/14/2020]. Available at: https://www.radio.fr/p/bfmdaniel. But, once again, we are playing with words to water down the deficit figures. As the State controls 56% of the wealth produced in our country, an official debt of 100% of GDP means that the State – that is to say all residents in France – is indebted at 179% its income. However, some unions continue to claim status quo on a system which had missed its reform already necessary in 1995 [5]Our British neighbor had already started to carry out deep reforms in 1981 and London had become the first financial power in the world, attracting millions of people around the world, unlike the city in serious difficulty that it had been between 1974 and 1980 and whose country, which had dominated the world in the XIXth century, had finally resolved to ask for the IMF assistance in the late 1970s.

That’s not all! I like to regularly talk about a file that had made an impression at the time: the Pébereau file. The latter, moreover, was somewhat republished in 2017 [6]HONORE Renaud, « Dette : le nouveau « rapport Pébereau » sonne l’alarme » (Debt: the new “Pébereau report” sounds the alarm”, February 5th, 2017, Les Echos, [consulted January 13, 2020]. Available at: https://www.lesechos.fr/2017/02/dette-le-nouveau-rapport-pebereau-sonne-lalarme-167326 Read also: PEBEREAU Michel et al, Des finances publiques au service de notre avenir – Rompre avec la facilité de la dette publique pour renforcer notre croissance économique et notre cohésion sociale (Public finances at the service of our future – Breaking with the ease of public debt to strengthen our economic growth and our social cohesion), Paris, December 2005, 136 p. In this report, not only did the senior civil servant draw the attention of the French to the fact that the State would be indebted to 66% of GDP in 2006, but in fact, if one took into account all the Public Authorities’ commitments, the State accounts were already in deficit at 100% of GDP. Among these commitments, were the pensions of civil servants, that is to say those who, among the working people, are both the best protected and the least mobile and therefore most likely to suffer from a public debt crisis. Some Administrative and Financial Directors of private companies evoke, nowadays, the real indebtedness of the French State to three or four times its annual income.

We also seem to forget a crucial point in this case: a debt, economic or otherwise, always ends up being honored. On the other hand, it is not necessarily reimbursed by the debtor: in the event of the bankruptcy of the latter, it is indeed the creditor of the next generation, that is to say the saver (Bank Savings, Life Insurance …) but also the civil servant and the beneficiary of public services, who will have to classify the debt in profit and loss. I quote the economist Jacques Attali in his 2010 book: The public debt is a debt of the current generations on the following ones, which always end up paying it in one way or another […] The one who is called one day to repay or refinance a public debt does not generally have the right to vote when it is contracted: he is placed before a fait accompli[7]ATTALI Jacques, Tous ruinés dans dix ans ? – Dette publique : la dernière chance (All ruined in ten years? – Public debt: the last chance), Paris, Fayard, 2010, p 113-114 […] Almost all over-indebted countries eventually default. [8]Idem, p131 Which social class will pay for this unpaid bill: the poor, the middle classes or the well-to-do socio-professional categories (SPC)? The lower classes?: their official incomes are reduced. The wealthy SPCs?: they are nomadic and already networked in several countries or even continents [9]ATTALI Jacques, Une brève histoire de l’avenir (A brief history of the future), Paris, Fayard, 2006, 312 p. Who is left? The middle classes. The problem is that the latter are already fiscally very pressurized, France being, in 2017, the most taxed country in the world, according to an OECD report.[10]HIAULT Richard, « La France championne du monde de la pression fiscale » (France is world champion of fiscal pressure), December 5th, 2018, Les Echos, [accessed January 13, 2020]. Available at: https://www.lesechos.fr/monde/enjeux-internationaux/la-france-championne-du-monde-de-la -pression-tax-236486

Even if France, in an age-old tradition, always tended to crash loudly and violently against the wall of socio-economic realities before carrying out structural reforms, we must all build a new pension system in which travail (labour in old English), despite its etymology,[11]The word Travail, [‘traeveil] in the English pronounciation, comes from the lower latin tripalium, an instrument of torture (578, Auxerre concil). Cf : DUBOIS Jean, MITERRAND Henri, DAUZAT Albert, Grand dictionnaire étymologique et historique du français, Paris, Larousse, 2005, p 1012. www.larousse.fr . See also: ATKINS Beryl T., DUVAL Alain, MILNE Rosemary C et al., Dictionnaire français-anglais anglais-français. 5e ed, Paris, Le Robert, 1998, p 1971. https://www.lerobert.com would no longer be considered a torture or a chore but as a means, for each and everyone, to give the best of himself/herself in order to build a happier society. A French nation rich of the originality of each citizen; a dynamic nation in which each inhabitant, with or without local nationality, is called to participate through all the ages of his life; a country which must finish regretting the 1950s to turn full of hope and resolution towards a future which will bring, of course, challenges but also exciting issues both for seniors as well as for children and young people. Let us hope that our rulers will not give in to cowardice, a temptation also secular among sovereigns. Hopefully Emmanuel Macron leaves his Jupiterian posture [12]To use a buzzword among journalists and is brave and humble enough to be a President with us (that is to say all the French) and not a simple politician, prisoner of a minority’s capacity to harm. A minority more turned towards the past than the future.

Additional bibliography[13]DANIEL Jean-Marc, Valls, Macron : le socialisme de l’excellence à la française, Paris, François Bourin, 2016, 128 p[14]LAURENS Didier, “Jean-Marc Daniel : Il faut supprimer le statut de la fonction publique”, in “Les enquêtes du contribuables”, Contrepoints, [consulté le 14 janvier 2020]. Disponible sur : https://www.contrepoints.org/2019/05/09/198071-jean-marc-daniel-il-faut-supprimer-le-statut-de-la-fonction-publique[15]JOUANNEAU Isabelle, “Jean-Marc Daniel : le quinquennat de Macron est marqué par un bricolage économique dû à un manque de solidité politique, Entreprendre, [consulté le 14 janvier 2020]. Disponible sur : https://www.entreprendre.fr/jean-marc-daniel-le-quinquennat-de-macron-est-marque-par-un-bricolage-economique-du-a-un-manque-de-solidite-politique/[16]ECOLE DE POLITIQUE APPLIQUEE, Taux de fertilité (naissances par femme aux Etats-Unis), [consulté le 14 janvier 2020]. Disponible sur : http://perspective.usherbrooke.ca/bilan/tend/USA/fr/SP.DYN.TFRT.IN.html[17]UNICEF, En bref :  Etats-Unis d’Amérique – Statistiques, [consulté le 14 janvier 2020]. Disponible sur : https://www.unicef.org/french/infobycountry/usa_statistics.html[18]MOYOU E., Taux d’évolution annuelle du produit intérieur brut réel (PIB) des Etats-Unis de 2008 à 2018, [consulté le 13 janvier 2020]. Disponible sur : https://fr.statista.com/statistiques/550024/taux-de-croissance-annuel-du-pib-reel/

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