Saturday, 22 December 2012

Never mind the rich, France is forcing its young and poorer talent into fiscal exile too

Get Out!
The French government's reaction to Gérard Depardieu's self-imposed fiscal exile to Belgium has revealed what many commentators have been saying for some years now - France is a country which doesn't like itself any more.

That a Prime minister and members of his government can violently criticise a rich man who quite rightly - and legally - seeks to save himself from a vindictive witch-hunt against the country's rich in the form of what amounts to mafia-style racketeering is bad enough, but that he does so by trying to stir up populist and socially-divisive sentiment by saying that they are 'shabby' is almost criminal.

The government is hiding behind a fig-leaf of 'economic patriotism' which laughably assumes that people should love the country more than their own well-being, but nobody in his right mind sincerely believes that, nobody ever paid taxes for patriotic reasons, and the bald fact is that this administration has gone further than any other to stigmatise those who succeed in life.

To his credit, François Hollande has now recognised that this tactic has backfired badly and he is desperately back-pedalling in an effort to counter the negative message France is sending not only to its own talented entrepreneurs but also - and more damagingly - to foreign investment. But the damage has already been done and a lot of France's richer citizens are leaving the country.

Most French governments of the last 40 years have adopted divisive tactics to resolve economic problems. Immigrants have suffered systematic official and unofficial discrimination and no real effort has been made to integrate them, old people with low income have been neglected and forgotten, the principles of equality and freedom were ditched years ago and now it's the turn of the rich to become the scapegoats.

Scapegoats is what French govenments do best to avoid taking the heat. French politics was hijacked a long time ago by a gerontocratic elite which has shut down all meaningful debate, concentrated all the power in Paris and confiscated official figures on sensitive subjects, and turned French politics into an antidemocratic farce, as Fillon and Copé have just shown. Governments have piled up debt to buy off the voters with no visible results and France's exceptionally high unemployment rates have persisted for years because they are an inbuilt feature of an economy which refuses to become competitive an a fast-changing world.

The result is a country which has no faith in its leaders and no faith in the future. Pessimism and blaming others have become national sports, jealousy reigns, and no country in the world takes so many antidepressive drugs in a vain effort to combat its doom-and-gloom outlook.

Of all the losers in this sorry mess however, none have lost more than those who constitute the country's most vital resource - its young people. Unemployment for 18-25-year-olds is in excess of 25% with lower rates in affluent 'white' areas and rates as high as 60% in some immigrant areas, and the current generation shall be the first since World War Two to have lower living standards than their parents did.

It's not surprising then that young people are leaving France in ever-increasing numbers, and, like their rich elders, they are moving to Britain and other Anglophone countries, Belgium, the Far East and anywhere else where they may earn a decent living.

And the backlash is picking up speed. In a scathing attack on their own country and its unwillingness to create real jobs, members of 'Barrez-vous' ('get out!'), an association which offers advice for young people who want to leave France published an article in Libération with the headline 'Young people of France, your salvation is elsewhere: Get Out!' which began with the words "Young people of France, this is not an incitation to fiscal evasion, but to evasion pure and simple."

Other, similar, websites are springing up all the time, and the press is publishing more and more articles written by young people who have found success in other countries. Non-whites often express their relief at being judged on their talent and not on their skin colour, particularly in Britain and the United States, and most agree that they have more options for the future abroad than they did in France.

Britain is a particularly popular destination, to the point where London's French population of 400,000 makes it the 6th-biggest French city in demographic terms (I wrote more about this here.) That explains why so many French politicians go there to press the flesh during elections. Needless to say, having to beg for almost half-a-million votes in a foreign country, and Britain in particular (quelle horreur!) represents a humiliation for France.

I see this phenomenon often in my own life too, and I know a lot of younger people who have either left France or plan to do so. They include my two nieces, one of whom has been depressed since she came back from a year of study in London to complete her studies here. She, like many others in her position, finds France to be an unappealing place with few prospects and she intends to move back to London as soon as possible.

The facts are undeniable but this government, like its predecessors, refuses to recognise them. And, like its predecessors, the only 'jobs' the government are able to 'create' are what they call 'Jobs for the young'. They are nothing of the sort however. They consist of activities like standing on metro platforms to 'help' users get on and off the trains. As if people need help to get on or off a train! They are soul-destroying, a waste of time, and worse still a waste of public money because those who accept them are paid a pittance by taxpayer's money, so not one cent of wealth is being created. That is how the government treats France's young people.

But young people are now voting with their feet in revolt against their humiliation by a government which cannot see that they are, or should be, the country's future.

So, Messrs Hollande, Ayrault and others, having stigmatised the rich for all the country's woes and having called one of them - and by implication all of them - 'shabby' for having left this execrable mess, is your next target to be the young?

After all, they are also leaving the country in ever-increasing numbers so are they too - and just like the rich - 'shabby'?

1 comment:

  1. Just a quick bit of news to addd to this post, which I put up yesterday.

    An interministerial delegate has announced today that the government is considering the idea of a 0% alcohol/blood level in drivers, 'particularly those aged 18-25'. That is so vague as to be almost meaningless (do they mean for everyone but the young most of all? What does that mean? Or do they mean just the young, in which case why have they used the word "particularly"?) but if they do set a 0% limit on just certain drivers - the young - it will be interpreted for what it is, picking on the young while the older population is spared. In other words, blatant discrimination.

    Az you woz. :)