Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Asia-Europe Economic Forum

At the French Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Industry. Discussed here.

Mélenchon le galant

Je n’ai pas encore trouvé mon pied d’appel avec les femmes
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I wonder how many American readers of this blog are familiar with the banlieues of Paris. Reading about them is one thing, experiencing the reality is another. I recommend a foot tour if you have the chance, but if you don't, you might want to sample this photo montage of Bobigny, the préfecture of Seine-Saint-Denis, or capital of the famous département "93." Places like this make the news generally only when there is trouble: riots, demonstrations, police action of some sort. The "peacetime" reality is different, and Americans will recognize the similarity with certain "inner-city" neighborhoods here: the "functional" architecture, the "diversity" of faces, the very "everydayness" of the surroundings. No sign here of the grandeur of central Paris, though it is only a few miles away. Worth a look.

Hold the Presses!

Hold the presses! Carla Bruni Sarkozy no longer feels left-wing:

But in Monday's interview with Le Parisien newspaper, she said her previous political persuasion was only due to her belonging to a "community of artists." "We were bobo (bourgeois bohemians), we were left-wing but at that time I voted in Italy (her native country)." I have never voted for the Left in France and I can tell you, I'm not about to start now. I don't really feel left-wing anymore," she said.
L'ouverture is officially over, I guess. Does this mean that Guaino's speeches will no longer quote Jaurès and Blum?

Copé Makes Another Move

With revolution sweeping across the Arab world, it seems almost indecent to talk about the latest round of politique politicienne in France, but I am a man of duty. And I don't much like Jean-François Copé. Still, I have to say that as a political poker player, he rivals Sarkozy when it comes to keeping his name in the news. His latest move is to propose an increase in the VAT, ostensibly as a way of reducing (eventually) social contributions (a payroll tax) in order to reduce French unit labor costs and thus, he claims, make French firms more competitive with German rivals. Whether such an analysis of France's competitive position can withstand scrutiny I'm not prepared to say at this point, but as a communications strategy it certainly makes sense: Copé looks like a hands-on, activist leader not afraid to break with his own president's policy (or to get out ahead of it: remember that Sarko has promised tax reform for later this year, and a revision of social contributions as part of a broader package of reforms seems likely).

Indeed, Christine Lagarde was the first governmental voice to leap into the breach to protect her president--and most likely to protect the reform package that she is no doubt working on at this very moment. Lagarde insists, probably correctly, that an increase in the VAT at this point will harm the consumer-spending-driven recovery. But the fact remains that Copé has stolen her thunder. If a reduction of the CSG and/or increase of the VAT is part of the ultimate reform package, Copé will take the credit, and if it isn't, well, he can still take credit for being a maverick unafraid to buck the party consensus. Bien joué. But I still don't like the guy.