French press review 28 February 2017

How much of a centrist is Emmanuel Macron? And can he live down his past as a merchant banker? How many close family members are employed as assistants by France's elected deputies? And how much financial influence has the country lost since the global crash in 2007?


It's enough to make you sick!

Left-leaning Libération says Emmanuel Macron, the presidential contender who claims to be neither of the left nor of the right, might be leaning a bit heavily to the right with his proposal to reintroduce the one-day insurance delay for public servants who fall ill.

The basic idea, under a law established by François Fillon in 2011, is that sick public servants would not be compensated by the social security people for the first day of any sick leave. The law was suppressed by the left in 2013, meaning that sick servants of the state were immediately compensated, while their counterparts in the private sector were not only sick, but also unpaid, for the first three days of any illness.

Libération says Macron has promised to reintroduce the measure, that is, bring back the one-day insurance gap for the public sector, on the grounds that it is only fair to align the system applying to otherwise cossetted public servants and their struggling brothers and sisters in the private sector.

The left-leaning paper says that, not only is Macron barking up the wrong bush, he's repeating on old, worn-out and totally discredited right-wing argument about equality, when the whole point is to save government money at the expense of the worker. And a sick worker at that. Shame on you Meany Macron, says Libé.

Can Emmanuel Macron live down his past as a merchant banker?

Right-wing daily Le Figaro says Macron's real problem in maintaining his centrist balancing act is his past as an executive at the Rothschild Bank, and his friendly links with some serious movers and shakers in the business world.

Bayrou (before he and Macron agreed a voting pact), Hamon (who hasn't been able to make a similar pact with anyone), and Florian Philippot (whose National Front boss has her own financial skeletons) have all accused Macron of being too rich, too smooth, too slim, too good-looking or too well-connected to lead the republic.

As if the skills learned in a tough branch of the business world would not be useful in the running of a country.

Keeping it in the family. How French politicians look after their own

Just in case you thought François Fillon was the only member of the French political class ever to take on a member of his own family as a parliamentary assistant, Le Monde reveals that, in fact, he's in good company. According to the centrist daily, at least 103 of the current 572 deputies have family links with their assistants. Le Monde's headline says it all: "Children, wives, cousins: one deputy in six employs a family member on the public budget."

And the real number might be higher, since not every one of the 572 deputies answered Le Monde's questionnaire. Actually, fewer than 200 filled in the form. They are, after all, very busy people.

Each deputy is perfectly entitled spend up to 9,561 euros each month to pay as many as five employees at the National Assembly or in his or her own constituency. The only limit is that no more than half that sum be paid to a single member of the immediate family.

Spouses are the most popular choice of parliamentary employee, accounting for 51 percent of cases examined by Le Monde, followed by children. Two deputies continue to employ their former wives, a cheering indication that, even after a divorce, serious adults can work positively together.

France still suffering impact of 2007 world financial implosion

Le Monde looks at the decade since the US subprime crisis, the mortgage lending disaster which caused the global financial collapse. It turns out that France has lost 45 percent of its international market share since 2007.

Not that French capitalism is down to its last billion euros. Far from it. The big names . . . Accor hotels, L’Oréal, Airbus, LVMH the luxury bag and brandy people, Renault and Michelin continue to make stacks of money despite a generally stagnant global atmosphere.

But the national electricity company and the nuclear consortium Areva have seen their share values decimated; other former stars in the French galaxy have been bought by foreigners; and a few have simply been swallowed by overseas competitors.

From representing five percent of the value quoted on the world's stock exchanges in 2007, French companies now account for just 2.8 percent. And that, says Le Monde, means less French influence in the world of big business, and less direct control over the future of French investments.

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