Though it is true that the current president and his successive governments have not yet succeeded in saving the country: unemployment, during the past two years, has increased by 500,000, and public debt has grown by 150 billion dollars; the French external deficit has reached extreme levels. The departures of French executives, young people, researchers, fortunes and decision-making centers have accelerated. And, for the past two years, reforms have been slow in coming.
However, the right-wing in France is in no real position to criticize and denounce the situation outlined earlier. Yet their leaders have reached the peak of shamelessness with their statements during the savings package debate in the Parliament. From their perspective, for the past 2 years, the overall result of the left-wing's action plans was to undo a country where everything was fine. And we have actually heard the right-wing shamelessly recommend to the left-wing, as a matter of urgency, that they undertake reforms that they themselves had not dared to carry out when they were in power.
The time has also come to spell out a few home truths, that it would be wrong for the right-wing to forget:
1. The country was in a very bad way when the left-wing took up the running. During the former President's term of office, (who like his successor, has managed international crises well) almost no major reform was actually made which would facilitate the modernization of the country. Only some rough solutions were proposed, far too timid, addressing issues such as the universities, labor law, competition, trade union representativeness and the entrepreneur's status.
2. Political parties (both Left and Right) know what's needed; and there is consensual understanding in this country among all our political and labor elites on what it will take to modernize the country: making public spending more efficient and more just, and in particular the funding for housing and the financing for social benefits; extending people's working lives as life expectancy is increasing; suppressing of departments; focusing vocational training on the unemployed; developing work-linked training; fashioning a fiscal
devaluation in order to improve competitiveness; developing research; reviving large infrastructural investments; breaking up secure incomes in the regulated professions, from taxis to businesses; promoting the energy transition; releasing personal initiative, in particular, by strengthening small and medium-sized enterprises; focusing education resources on pre-school education. And much more.
3. The right-wing cannot claim to have had insufficient time to carry out these reforms. They were in power for ten years without interruption. And instead of asking the left-wing to revisit the 35-hour week legislation, or cut back on spending, or expand Sunday work, they should apologize to the country for not having the courage to do so when they were still in power.
4. The right-wing cannot claim that the crisis prohibited them from making reforms. The fact is that other European countries reformed themselves heavily during a crisis, for example, in Germany, Greece, Great Britain and Italy. This was also the case for Spain and Sweden. And in France, both the Jospin and Raffarin Governments have demonstrated that, likewise, in case of abundance, reforms are not made either.
5. The right-wing is responsible for the brutality of the reforms launched today, because they let the situation deteriorate: for example, if the budgetary savings and the reform of vocational training had been carried out as early as 2009, as was actually proposed, we would have 500,000 fewer people out of work and for general government debt-to-GDP ratio a decline by 10 GDP percentage points today. And there would have been no need for the left-wing to rush out, with courage, a €50 billion budget savings plan, which will probably not be enough.
6. Therefore, the right-wing ought to make due apology and admission of their own errors. Because it is from them that we learn. They must be inconspicuous for a while, if only to prepare themselves, eventually, to govern more effectively the next time voters put them in charge.
More generally, the French political class remains light years behind the maturity of the French people that they are supposed to be leading. And if current politicians today are not capable of handling the truth, and their own mistakes, others will emerge. Out of nowhere.
Follow Jacques Attali on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jattali