Economy center stage in French elections

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Nicholas Sarkozy

French Presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has promised to address what he calls the French "moral crisis... of work". With unemployment for younger people running at alarming levels (15.5% in 2002 for those aged between 20 and 24 according to the OECD) and the memory of the 2005 riots still recent, Sarkozy promised to reign in government spending and implement tax policies that reward longer working hours.

Once a matter of pride, the 35 hour maximum working week is seen by Mr. Sarkozy as contributing to the sluggish growth of the French economy. In previous years France's aversion to "anglo-saxon" economic and labour policies contributed to the rejection of the EU constitution in a referendum last year.

However, such views are now being challenged by the French right's main Presidential candidate as he proposes to abolish tax on hours worked above the 35 hours limit as well as proposing to introduce new measures to increase share options for employees outside of the managerial elite.

Ségolène Royal
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

As well as challenging France's work ethic he is planning to roll back the boundaries of the State by adopting policies that will reduce the size of State organisations to allow for tax reductions in the hope of kick-starting the economy. The effect of his tax and spend reduction plans on state social provision has not yet been explained.

Reaction from Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal was immediate in describing his proposal as "scandalous" and that tax reductions on the richest on society would aggravate the already existing social divisions in the country. She argues that State spending on public services were essential at a time when such divisions existed in the country.

Mr. Sarkozy is currently pulling ahead in the polls one week after announcing his candidacy for the May poll.

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