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OPINION

Eye on France: The scandal of public spending

French leader Emmanuel Macron: looking for a public spending miracle.
French leader Emmanuel Macron: looking for a public spending miracle. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Business paper l’Opinion notes the astonishing fact that French public spending is 218 billion euros greater than the average among the neighbours. Where is the money going?

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If President Emmanuel Macron's government could get the bill down to the European average, France would be able to write off its entire national debt and reduce taxes by more than 100 billion euros.

European countries all tend to spend the same proportion of their budgets on the same things. France just does more of it.

So, what costs so much?

Pensions, social welfare and teaching between them account for 55 percent of the total, which is 20 percent ahead of the average public spending in the rest of Europe.

The article in l’Opinion says the great national debate has, unfortunately, failed to come up with many viable ideas for getting the bill down.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world...

For the tenth year in succession, the Austrian capital Vienna has won the Mercer poll as the global city offering the best quality of life.

Mercer is a business consultancy which advises multinational companies. For their latest report, they considered 231 cities on the basis of 39 criteria.

European cities take eight places in the top ten. Along with Vienna, you have Zurich, Munich, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Geneva and Basle. Canada’s Vancouver and Auckland in New Zealand make up the leading group.

French could do better

Paris and Lyon are to found down in 39th and 40th places respectively.

The French cities are well rated for personal and press freedom, but lose out on security and something called social stability. These finding were, incidentally, compiled before the gilets jaunes, or Yellow Vest protestors got into their stride.

All US cities with the exception of New York (in 44th place) have lost ground compared with last year’s standings.

The Big Apple moves up one place because the crime figures are on the way down.

Trump's trade war depresses US standings

But the Trump trade war which basically pits the United States against everyone else has meant an increase in commercial and economic tension, and that has led to an overall decline in the standing of the federal capitals.

If you are moving to Asia, Singapore is the place to be, followed by Tokyo.

Bring your face mask if heading to either Beijing or New Delhi, the global leaders in air pollution, respectively 120th and 162nd in the ratings.

Caracas has lost 48 places to land at 202nd overall, mainly due to the ongoing political and economic crisis.

Baghdad is the worst-rated city, even if security and cleanliness there have shown real improvements. Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, and Sanaa in Yemen make up the bottom three.

Whale spits out diver off South African coast

Spare a thought for Rainer Schimpf, a South African ecologist and film-maker.

Last week, while filming dolphins, shark and various sea birds from inside a shoal of sardines off the coast near Port Elizabeth, Rainer briefly imitated the Biblical figure Jonah by getting himself swallowed by a whale.

The giant mammal surged up from the depths for a mouthful of fish, and ended up with a mouthful of Rainer.

A support photographer filmed the entire sequence, as everything but Rainer’s legs briefly disappeared inside the whale’s mouth. He said he felt himself being squeezed around the waist and realised immediately what was happening. Luckily, after a couple of seconds, the whale also realised what was happening, and spat him out.

You can't keep a good man down, for long

Unharmed and with his camera intact, Rainer was back in the water a short time after his brief Biblical experience.

He has since become an internet sensation, the images of his imitation of lunch having been watched eight million times on YouTube.

He says that, if offered the choice, he would like to be re-incarnated as a whale. If he does come back, you can bet he’ll be careful about what he eats.

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