Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Se la vee...or whatever

Apparently all it not well in France these days:

From record unemployment to a chronic budgetary deficit, France's economic woes are taking a toll on the morale of the French.

France is increasingly painted as a country which is not only failing to make the grade internationally, but seems hell bent on continuing in that downward spiral.

A recent editorial in Le Figaro declared: 'French morale is in its socks.'


Official data published on Thursday showed that gross domestic product will expand by only 0.2 per cent this year - the least in a decade and less than half the 0.5 per cent growth forecast in the budget.

That will add to pressures on the budgetary deficit.

At 4 per cent of gross domestic product, it is already one percentage point above the limit set for the eurozone.

Unemployment, meanwhile, is hovering at 10 per cent, with hundreds of thousands of more jobs at risk.


'Since the 1970s the average growth in France has fallen from 3 per cent to 1.8 per cent a year and productivity gains from 4.2 per cent to 1 per cent annually,' he noted.

He said France was the only developed country where unemployment rates had stayed at around 9 per cent for a quarter of a century and where 20 per cent of the working age population were excluded from the workforce.

How did France get into such dire straits?

Mr Baverez pointed to an inability to adapt to modern realities and the global economy.

The WEF highlighted 'infernal social regulations, repetitive strikes, and a debilitating fiscal system which hinder the competitiveness of French enterprises'.

The problem is often linked to heavily-taxed businesses, inflexible labour laws and a very costly but inefficient public sector, which employs one in four workers.

Thirty per cent of state workers are unionised and there is a strike nearly every month in public sectors.

Some blame the 35-hour work week for aggravating the productivity problem and generating a non-enterprising and anti-innovative mentality.

And I hate to say "I told you so" but...

Experts warn that the French decline is not limited to the economic malaise.

It shows in the dysfunctions of the public service and government system, political and business scandals, the rise of extremist parties and the marginalisation of France in Europe and in the world, due partly to its stance on Iraq and defiant violations of its financial obligations in the EU.

France marginalized in Europe because of its "stance on Iraq?" But I thought the US lacked "international support" for the war? Looks like Chirac's plan has gone awry.


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