Thursday, 3 January 2013

The French PM's declaration is a masterpiece of political window dressing

J.M. Ayrault, an excellent Prime minist used car salesman
French Prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's first declaration of the New Year is vibrant, upbeat and almost inspiring in tone. Not only that, it seems to imply that France has finally found a political leader who realises that his country's institutions and economy are in desperate need of modernisation and that he intends to do something about it.

Let's see what he said in his rather chipper and seductive declaration, which was published by Le Monde.

Ayrault announced that he has a "working calendar" for the first quarter, during which he says he will create "a new French model" and that "France doesn't have to deny its own soul and character to get out of the crisis and get back its strength and world influence. [France must do more to] welcome risk-taking, economic and social innovation and the creation of companies..." Ayrault wishes to "carry out a fundamental renewal of the French model, adapt it to the present day and offer a new reality to its founding republican values, that which demands lucidity and courage. [...] It is incumbent upon the state to undertake the task of renewing our political, economic and social organisation [...] in order that France may rediscover its pride, cohesion and self-confidence....."

Now that IS impressive by any standards. Could France really have seen the light, smelt the coffee and decided to get real about its chronic long-term structural problems? Is this the dawning of a new age of French realism and courage? Of flexibility and change? Of modernism and confidence in the future?

Well no actually, it isn't. It's anything but.

A quick look at the five major tasks on the much-vaunted 'working calendar' for the three months to come shows that the declaration is in reality bereft of all concrete intention.

- Economic renewal and the fight for jobs
Ayrault promises to fight unemployment and create competitivity, but the government hasn't done anything to create any new jobs since it was elected. Not only that, the way he wants to go about the job is to have 'seminars' and make sure that all his ministers are concerned by the issues. Does he mean they weren't concerned before? As for seminars and meetings, that is precisely one of the cancers in French society. There are more committees and quangos in this government than there were grains of rice on my (copious) plate of sweet and sour prawns at lunchtime. No new ideas then, just more of the same vague and sibyllin platitudes. Fail.

- Bank reforms, as early as January
Really? There's nothing new here. Ayrault is referring here to a weak reformette that was decided towards the back end of last year. The reform was almost universally adjudged to be a heavily watered-down and almost ineffective measure compared to how it was presented during the 'bash the rich' election campaign. Not only that, the reform won't come into effect in January as it says in the advert. All they are going to do, as Ayrault says himself, is "debate it in January." *face palm* Fail.

- Reorganisation of schools, as early as January
A total piss-tak Not a cat's chance in hell of this one flying. And, again, nothing is to be actually done, all they're going to do is prepare a law project which will take forever to be debated in parliament and the senate, and even if it is voted, it will be withdrawn - as have almost all previous attempts to reform education in a meaningful way - when the teachers' unions start striking against it, as they inevitably shall. My god daughter's school basketball team stands more chance of winning the NBA title this year than Ayrault does of reforming the antedeluvian French education system. Fail.

- Revalorisation of the SMIC (minimum wage)
Another misrepresentaion. The SMIC is not going to be revalorised. All that's planned is to modify the decree which revalorises it, and that's a completely different matter. And even if it is modified who says that any revalorisation of the SMIC will follow? Vapidity personified and fail.

- Multi-mandate holders in parliament and the senate.
(For readers who don't fully understand this singularly aberrational French variation on the 'jobs for the boys' theme very well, here's an explanatory article I wrote about it a while back.) The idea is to eliminate or greatly reduce multi-mandating, but it will never happen. Governments have promised to do this since the year dotBC, and they have all gone back on their word. Besides, the government has already been warned by a large number of its own MPs that they will vote against any proposal of this nature, along with the opposition. Besides, let's not get over-excited here. All that's planned is a 'presentation of related dispositions' and that, last time I looked, does not mean they are planning an actual law. A bread-and-circuses exercise. Pfft, humbug on an industrial scale. In other words, fail.

This declaration is a manifesto for more of the same immobilism which has paralysed almost all French governments over the last 30 years. It is a masterclass of treading on water and making it look as if one were swimming. A sleight of hand. Fine words but no action. No money where the mouth is. It's the political equivalent of a dodgy used car saleman's spiel.

Be that as it may, this declaration does however have the merit of clearly informing us where the government intends to take the country over the next few months. In a word, this government clearly intends to take the country....


No comments:

Post a Comment