The Prime Minister's new proposals for economic reform have been agreed by the Senate, with 172 votes for and 122 against. Dominique de Villepin spoke for 23 minutes before the National Assembly yesterday, in an abridged version of the 52 minute speech given by Nicolas Sarkozy the day before. Some ministers questioned the word-for-word repetition. Mr de Villepin claimed this to be a sign of unity within the government.
Nicolas Sarkozy has announced his intention to expell 50 per cent more illegal immigrants from France in 2005 than in 2004. He reminded the National Assembly that during his last term as Interior Minister between 2002 and 2004, there was a 72 per cent increase in deportations.The FT has been resolutely skeptical with an article yesterday and a (pay to read) analysis today. To no one's great surprise, in addition to comments like the one above, Sarko has been in action and while the action is not exactly going to do much other than cause a few Parisian policemen to lose sleep it is more that Vile Pin has done. People have noticed that Vile Pin took 10 days just to annouce his plan of action for the 100 days, and that plan, as the Torygraph notes in the conclusion to its article, is already under attack from the unions:
Among large sections of the public, morale is low and confidence in Mr Chirac and his government lower still, inspiring fighting talk from union leaders about bringing people on to the streets. One of the big unions reacted to the speech by calling for a massive mobilisation this month. Respected social commentators have suggested that the country may even be in a "pre-revolutionary" mood.Of course his plans to revive employment for certain segments of the population show just how lacking he is in the concept of "free market", as the same Torygraph article shows:
He promised to inject more than £3 billion from public funds next year to pay for a series of measures designed to promote recruitment.
Employers will be offered incentives to hire more young people, especially school leavers, and the over-50s. Successful job-seekers returning to jobs after more than a year out of work will be paid £700-a-head bonuses, while the authorities will be told to crack down on individuals who abuse the system.
France will talk to the EU about ways of reserving parts of public contracts for small and medium-sized French companies. But he also announced a "pause" in the tax cuts that Mr Chirac put at the heart of his 2002 presidential campaign.
In a sop to the unions, Mr de Villepin said there would be no abandonment of the French "social model", under which workers enjoy a high level of job protection, said by many economists to be a key factor in the high unemployment.
He also turned a critical eye on the British-led free market lobby in the EU, saying that "no one understands" why Europe does not provide more means to defend its economy or does not fully profit from the euro. "We have a strong currency. Give us also a strong economic policy. Give us the means to defend our European preference, as all the other great economic blocs do."Firstly we see the government bribing companies to hire people and there will no doubt be an increase in bureaucrats to "crack down on individuals who abuse the system" as well. Then we see protectionism rearing its head. The one about contracts being reserved for small and medium-sized French companies is totally illegal under EU rules but that doesn't really matter because I don't think that any French bureaucrat has ever awarded a contract to a non French company anyway. Certainly, as we see around here with the Nice Tramway bribery scandals, contacts are not awarded to the lowest bidder. Then the "we have a strong currency so we need to implement protectionism against imports" line is both economically illiterate and against WTO rules, not to mention something that seems likely to irritate other memebrs of the EU. Finally, just to make his list of proposals even more stupid, Vile Pin added some vaseline to his derrière by promising to keep the 35 hour week in order to accomodate to the nasty unions mentioned earlier. As the Torygraph's related comment today points out the 35 hour week is actually forcing people to either work in the black economy or work less than they are willing to.