French press review 28 March 2013

5 min

Since at least the start of the financial crisis, a favourite topic of complaint here in France has been the whinge about declining purchasing power.


Now it's official. On the front page of this morning's very serious and politically independent business paper, Les Echos, we learn that French sponduliks for spending are at a 30-year low.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The national economy showed zero growth last year, the average profit margins of French businesses sank to their lowest levels since 1985, and the lowly consumer saw his ability to consume reduced by a futher half per cent, meaning a real money decline of 3.5 per cent in average purchasing power since 2007.

Nearly half the French questioned in a recent opinion poll say they think things can only get worse.

Right wing Le Figaro says it's all the fault of tax increases. And there is, indeed, worse to come. According to the right-wing paper, this year's tax bills are going to be even more frightening and will further reduce people's spending power, thus slowing the economy even further.

Such concerns will not be far from the mind of President François Hollande tonight when he addresses the nation in what the left-leaning newspaper, Libération, is calling the president's second chance oral.

Just ten months in the top job, things are not going too well for François Hollande. It's not all his fault, of course, but that doesn't mean we don't blame him for the whole mess.

Near-record unemployment, economic growth going backwards, public spending off the dial, an ever increasing tax burden.

The French leader is not the only European politician to pay the price of the crisis. Cameron, Rajoy and Monti have all been victims of the same downward spiral.

Libération suggests that unpopular politicians often blame their poor standing in the opinion polls on a failure to explain their policies. The crucial question for Hollande is whether he actually has a coherent policy worth explaining.

The left wing newspaper suggests the French president take his cue from an illustrious predecessor, Pierre Mendès-France. He survived the difficult post-war days, and oversaw the end of the French colonial empire in north Africa and south-east Asia.

Mendès-Frrance refused to allow politicians to hide behind the smokescreen of "difficult times", saying that political will could change destiny. Mendès-France, of course, did not have to put up with the diktats of the European Central Bank. But he did say that the French people were not afraid of the truth. That may be expecting just a bit too much of François Hollande.

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