France

French press review, 22 September 2010

The main headline in Le Monde is a bit perplexing . . .It says that 79 per cent of the French are in favour of a reform of the tax laws. Without even bothering to read the small print, we can shrewdly guess that "reform" means making other people pay more, in the hope that we might have to pay less. My question is simply, what do the other 21 per cent want? Can there be that many rich gits in this country, happily rolling in clover and feeling that the current laws will do very nicely, thank you.

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The front page of Communist l'Humanité could not be clearer. They've got a picture of a bunch of pretty schoolgirls at a protest march, and the headline "Leave our future alone". That's a contribution to the debate on the age at which French workers retire, a debate thus far seen as of marginal interest to the under-30s, now, if we're to believe l'Humanité, beginning to interest even those who won't be worrying about retirement for the next half century or so.

While we're on the subject, right-wing Le Figaro assures us that 70 per cent of the French don't believe Socialist promises that they'll put the retirement age back to 60, if they win the 2012 election. Le Figaro says that a majority of the French realise that the current government's move, pushing the retirement age to 62, is financially necessary, sociologically reasonable and politically practicable.

Left-leaning Libération is delighted to give front-page prominence to the dirty digs and general badness that is seething below the pock-marked outer covering of the ruling right wing. Everybody knows that President Nick is currently shuffling his ministers, trying to come up with a combination that will do as little harm as possible to said Nick's chances of getting elected for a second term as head honcho. There are lots of jobs potentially up for grabs, including that of Prime Minister, head of the presidential UMP operation, and chief bottle-washer in the back of beyond. Against such a bracing background of internecine hatred and mayhem, the people who attempt to govern this country are smiling through their expensive dental work, quietly sharpening their personal protective cutlery and keeping an eye on job openings in the private sector.

Members of the Italian mafia are really finding it hard to make ends meet.

Over the weekend, the Italian Interior Minister was giving himself a pat on the back for some recent successes of the struggle against the bad guys. He says that, over the past two years, no fewer than 16 billion euros worth of ill-gotten gains have been returned to the state. Which might not seem like much of an improvement, but let's not, for once, be rude to Silvio Berlusconi.

The minister was opening a crèche in a villa seized from a don, which is probably just the sort of start in life you'd want your child to have.

While we're on the subject, a sad story from Le Monde, where it is reported that no fewer than thirty thousand Russian kids have been returned to their orphanages of origin by their adopting families. You used to get the equivalent of between 270 and 910 euros per adopted child, each month. But, since the crisis, payments have been cut and are paid with less than regularity. That had made adoption less attractive for many families, who simply return the unwanted child. There are an estimated seven hundred thousand orphans in Russia, more than at any time since the end of the last war.

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