Thursday, February 22, 2024

France’s new face

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France has elected its first socialist president in 17 years, Francois Hollande. He is from Tulle, a small southwestern country term. Tulle is associated with his economic policies which are deeply rooted in French culture. The presidential election saw a mixture of economics and culture. Previous President Sarkozy lived in style while France was crippled by unemployment, low growth and keen competition. Hollande had a privileged upbringing but its attention is focused on farmers, small entrepreneurs and youth. He however faces serious challenges and his meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel will signify much as there are barriers between them. Hollande is against Merkel’s budget-tightening measures. He envisages a bright future for the French economy—new public sector jobs galore, lowering of the retirement age and promotion of social services. Details of the road plan have not been spelt out. France has a huge fiscal deficit and S&P has downgraded its credit rating. Hollande proposes to tax the super-rich to curtail the deficit.

The new French President advocates exclusivity in an age of globalisation. He stresses liberty, equality and fraternity but a detailed economic plan remains to be drawn up. Fiscal and policy reforms should be prioritised. French competitiveness has to be made sharper. Investment in schools is the core of Hollande’s social policy. Parliamentary polls in France are only a few weeks away and Hollande has to consolidate his position by then.

 

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