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Jacques Attali Headshot

Let's Have a Dream

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2014 is shaping up to be a bad year: across the world, even though there seems to be the outline at the horizon of the resumption of economic growth and the recovery in investment, in the United States and in some emerging countries, such as Mexico, Nigeria and Indonesia, the reality is that essentially, next year, this growth will not be financed except by an increase in public debt and by printing money; inequalities will be increasingly wider; the benefits of growth will be increasingly confiscated by a minority; manifestations of protectionism increasingly numerous and effective. Nothing will be more conducive to the exasperation of the citizens and the anger of extremists. In particular, in the United States, a choice will have to be made between the continued monetary growth and tighten up budgeting, which can, in both cases, cause disasters.

From a military point of view conflicts across the globe can be expected, some of which are already there: in the Sahel, Democratic Republic of Congo, Southern Sudan; further threats of conflicts: between China and Japan, between Iran and Israel. For the environment, increasingly serious natural disasters can be expected, caused by changes in climate.

On a European level, growth will not materialize, unemployment will not be reduced, the standard of living will continue to stagnate or fall, public debt will get out of control in Greece, Portugal and then in Italy and France; elections held in May 2014 will lead almost everywhere to a rise in extreme parties that will influence the decisions of the next European parliament and will paralyze any federal progress. The recent drumbeat of banking union will turn out to be unworkable, in the absence of the revision of the Treaties; and the entire credibility of the achievement of the euro, will once again, be called into question. Never the future of Europe will have looked bleaker.

In France, the year is shaping up to be even worse, which puts growth in the French economy at zero, which means a decrease of purchasing power and an increase in unemployment; deficits not reduced; a rising debt; a racist party becoming the first French party in the European elections, after entering a large number of municipal councils, a « brain-drain » of the main players, a reversal of inward investment, a beleaguered political majority, tempted to find a way out by becoming more radical. France will then become the target of attacks from all markets, until brought under the control of a humiliating troika.

This worst case scenario is the most likely. Yet history teaches us that, when something in the future seems certain to us, it means it will not happen. So one may start to dream that 2014 will end better than it is shaping up.

US growth could at last rely on budgetary decisions that are finally reasonable; technological change could begin to have an impact on growth and employment. In particular, significant innovations will be able to improve significantly the efficiency of energy use. Growth could break the vicious circle of protectionism. Conflicts could also be kept away, thanks to the efficient intervention of the French and African forces; and once peace has returned this could help the countries of the Sahel to connect to Nigerian economic growth. For Europe, a European election less radical than expected could lead to the implementation of a genuine federal project, distinguishing between the euro area and the European Union, to which both Turkey and Ukraine could join.

Finally, in France, we are starting to dream of a president who as early as January will be taking courageous decisions, in order to regain control of the Socialist Parliamentarian Group and to obtain from them to provide at last for the reform of lifelong training, far beyond the timid agreement of the social partners; who will take a close look at government expenditure, and launch courageous savings, in particular by removing the departmental level. Such action, accompanied with a clear and sincere implementation of a project for the country and Europe, can bring about a step backwards for the National Front, and a return of the confidence of foreign investors.

The outcome of 2014 will therefore be decided at the latest by the end of February, for better or for worse...

In this world more dangerous than ever, everyone will be increasingly tempted to find solace in his personal happiness. Even if this makes him forget about others, caring only for himself, leaving his country. By acting this way, we would be wrong: egoism is just a way of delaying deadlines. No matter what happens, we are not spectators of the world. Now is the time for us to act, through vote, revolt, smile, to make 2014 a very good year.