Press Conference - 25 April 2019

ENGLISH VERSION

Critical analysis of Emmanuel Macron's press conference

of 25th April 2019

Didier BERTIN - May 2, 2019

I-The role and the action of elected political representatives

What is expected of the highest elected representative of a country is that he knows the global economic data including those of his own country and that he does not make any reasoning error; these points are necessary but not sufficient conditions for designing an adequate policy.

When there is a doubt in politics and if the Parliament cannot play a role of moderator and corrector, some citizens better trained and better informed than formerly feel obliged to remind their political representatives to their duties even trough street demonstrations. Unfortunately street demonstrations also attract extremist individuals who act violently and "terrorist groups" who should be treated as such by justice. Violence tarnishes some messengers but fortunately not the message itself. Our President should take this message into account to restore serenity in France by socio-economic steps promoting social progress which was assumed to be the agenda of the President, the government and his representatives in the Parliament who tend to vote the law proposal as obedient sheep. It must be remembered that Policemen who face the same economic troubles as the rest of the population cannot solve by use of force the underlying socio-economic management that are the root of the situation.

Disgruntled citizens do not intend to replace the political representatives since they already have the huge task of creating annually the GDP that takes up most of their life time; consequently, they normally do not wish to create new political parties and this does not in any way diminish the value of the message they carry.

These citizens today have a level of understanding at least equal to that of their representatives and can only be led "by sacrificing their time normally dedicated to rest and leisure” to control the work of their elected representatives. It is urgent these representatives get to work seriously in carrying out the tasks for which they have been elected and which must converge far of simplistic solutions towards improving welfare. The complexity of today's economic world requires real skills to enable them to fully play their role.

II- Work: His perception oscillates in France between real and spiritual

Far from the reality of the figures too many French leaders are pleased to discredit both the volume of work and the effectiveness at work of their fellow citizens and this on the basis of deeply rooted prejudices and a right-wing philosophy invaded by retrograde spiritual values.

In the unconscious of many of them, the need to rest and of leisure of the working class may be seen as a reject of the redemptive suffering on earth in view of the salvation in the heavens according on the basis of the concept of the Church whereas the aspiration to earthly pleasures is the source of all vices. Curiously these leaders do not apply to themselves the same principles perhaps may be because as being the first of rope (“premier de cordée”) which is an expression that our President likes  brings them sufficiently close of the heavens. The magnitude given by our President to the fire in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, whose prestige is mainly due to the imagination of Viollet-le-Duc (in 1843) and that of Victor Hugo (in 1831), reflects a mixture real and spiritual.  Here again the first ones of rope (the billionaires) immediately showed a generosity that they refuse to their staff working the companies of their business empires. The fast restoration of the monument is necessary because it constitutes an important element of national identity especially for the tourists who play a substantial part in our economy.

Regarding g the work and in order to gain acceptance of a reduced social policy i.e.welfare, it was said during the press conference and in a contemptuous way that the French people would work less than the Spaniards, the Italians, and the English.

To make such a judgment one must stick to the numbers. The first point is the GDP is achieved by the sole labor force while the national population includes also citizens whose work is not counted, pensioners and also children and students who do not produce but who are the future of the nation. In Germany, this existential component (children and students) is endangered and then the country itself in such extent that some workstations were adapted to elderly people.

The statistics supporting the President's statements are those of the OECD (focused on employees) which are in a way misinterpreted. Productivity is not taken into account and most countries with insufficient equipment and then insufficient productivity needs longer working time as unsatisfactory compensation. For example Germany, which is very well equipped, is the country where we work time is the smaller as compared to the other 35 OECD countries. In addition, the OECD made a comparative work by mixing disparate figures taken from 2016 to 2018.

The amount of hours worked in the five largest EU countries which realize 66.8% of EU’s GDP is according to OECD figures as follows:

countries

Working hours p.a.

year

Germany

1356

2017

France

1526

2016

UK

1538

2018

Spain

1695

2017

Italy

1723

2017

The working hours in France are equivalent to those in the United Kingdom, both of which are much higher than those of Germany. Naturally as we said, less equipped countries such are obliged to use more cheap paid labor. It should be noted that the annual statutory period of full-time work is 1,607 hours in France.

However these figures do not include the French self-employed people (traders, freelances etc…) whose working time per year was according to EUROSTAT 2335 hours in 2015 or 42% more than the European average.

Including the work self-employed people to that of companies ‘workers, France is at the top of the main European countries according to the following table practically at the same level as Germany:

Countries - 2015

Working time p.a. in hours

Rank

Germany

1956 

1

France

1928

2

Italy

1886 

3

UK

1824 

4

Spain

1801

5

France is therefore at the same level as Germany in terms of working time, but once again the working time has only a limited meaning if productivity is not taken into account.

Even in weekly terms and according to the Statistics provided by the French State administration in 2018 on the basis of 2016 figures France ranks among the most hard-working countries within the five countries producing 66.8% of EU’s GDP.

Weekly working time in 2016

Rank

UK

36.8

1

Spain

36.4

2

France

36.3

3

Italy

35.5

4

Germany

34.8

5

 In terms of willingness to work it should also be noted that 20% of French working people consider that they make a "Bullshit Job" that is to say a job without interest and despairing.

Productivity is essential and the amount of work often changes inversely with productivity. What matters is the creation of GDP and not the time that people spend in their jobs.

Productivity:

2017

Labor Force in 000

GDP  ppp*

€ 000 000

Productivity

Euros/worker

France

29 824

2 092 000

70 201

Germany

43 382

3 046 000

70 216

UK

33 701

2 078 000

61 661

Italy

25 970

1 736 000

66 846

Spain

22 807

1 287 000

56 447

Total

156 684

10 239 000

65 349

66.8% of UE

Total UE

15 330 000

*ppp = purchasing power parity

In terms of productivity France is the leader with the same level of that of Germany of the five largest EU countries producing 66.8% of EU’s GDP.

EUROSTAT calculated productivity in 2014 and applied different criteria, the results of which were in the same direction. EUROSTAT had made a comparative statement of EU members by setting the weighted average of EU to 100:

Productivity  in 2014

Base 100 =UE’s average

Rank

France

128.5

1

Germany

126.9

2

Italy

101.4

3

Spain

101

4

UK

99.4

5

Compared to the main EU’s countries, French labor force works long and with a high productivity.

A reasonable growth of GDP would have immediate effects on the state budget and its ability to finance social policy including the return to full employment which also a factor of GDP’s increase.

III- The problems of rationale during the press conference

1- Retirement and seniors

Argument 1: The President declared that he did not want to extend the retirement age that would remain at 62 (against 60 years previously), taking into account the difficulty of Seniors to keep or to find a job (This is often more an impossibility than a difficulty).

Argument 2: The retirement age is therefore not extended but the length of the contribution period is extended for a normal retirement allowance. In case of insufficient contribution the penalties will be heavy.

Argument 2 contradicts and therefore cancels argument 1, because it means that the retirement age is de facto pushed over 62 if one wants to avoid a strong impoverishment.

The rationale is thus quite contradictory: The argument 2 reveals an accounting and "static" logic by which one fills an assumed future deficit of the pension funds by the impoverishment of the pensioners. In any case, impoverishment is the point of convergence of the two arguments which are only a different presentation of one and the same option.

2- Evolution of unemployment

The President reported a drop in unemployment due to its policy of more than 500,000 unemployed, while INSEE mentions a drop of 487,000 unemployed for the years 2017 and 2018.

69.4% of this fall in unemployment occurred in 2017 and thus a substantial part of this result is certainly due to the policy of the previous president. The figure for the year 2018 which fully relates to the policy of the new president is only a drop of 149,600 unemployed people or 30.7% of the 487,000 unemployed people back to work in 2017 and 2018.

IV-The right order of priorities

An economic policy does not consist in the management of the expenses and incomes in a frozen universe but in that of their flows in a dynamic framework. In a frozen universe, we would reduce the expenses to adapt them to incomes which are also assumed to be frozen and this is disconnected from the real world. Such rationale does not take into account the dynamics and the interaction of economic flows in which for example a fall in expenditure may lead also to a fall in income. The increase in well-being begins with GDP and not with the systematic reduction of public spending.

Many citizens have the intuition that too much simplification of rationale reveals incompetence. Political representatives should be able take a challenge in complex situations that involve a much greater effort on their part. The citizens gained through their efforts a certain well-being and did not elect representatives to reduce it, especially since the President and the MPs of his majority were mainly elected by siphoning votes of left wing.

We should also note that growth in well-being by producing durable goods enabling the decrease of GDP, but the majority of EU countries have not chosen this option for the time being.

GDP growth is driven by innovation and currently the number of patent filings remains insufficient, the responsiveness to competition, the greater influence of the state in companies and full employment.

The participation of state representatives in the boards of directors where it is still present is too often characterized by a deafening silence.

The corporate is at the heart of growth and in order to influence them the elected representatives must fully understand its logic to make adequate pressures and propose adequate subsidies to help increase of sales, employment and welfare. In addition the elected representatives should have an economic perspective that goes beyond the short-term entrepreneurial view. These competences cannot be found in obedient sheep. This action must be regularly reported and known. One could even imagine that elected officials may have a variable remuneration according to their successful and proven interventions in favor of growth and employment in each of the companies of their local area.

V- The rest of the proposals at the press conference

The answers do not seem to have lived up to the sheer breadth of the "National Debate" and have all too often focused on proposals that are conceivable but uncertain by discarding them to the future action of the government.

The future indexation of pensions to inflation was presented as a measure of progress when it comes back to the previous situation.

No steps of reduction of gas taxes was announced when its prices is now higher than it was before the crisis and despite it was the first cause of the social demonstrations crisis having started in last November. It had, however, been brought to the attention of the President that the cars very often remained the only means of communication in most of France to go to work and to have a normal life .

VI-Overall political situation and conclusion

A combination of circumstances has made the French political situation what it should not be, that is to say a state led by a single party of obedient sheep and an inexperienced president. This situation is the breeding ground for the growth of the far rightist “Rassemblement National” Party which could play a role of main opposition party or even government party which is a serious risk for public order, for the future of France and its values magnified by the threat of exit from the EU which will make France inaudible in the concert of nations.

It would be desirable to rebuild from LaREM (The majority Party of the President) in two democratic parties. LaREM has siphoned off much of the left and tends to pursue a right-wing policy. The two parties from LaREM would be one progressive and the other conservative.

In order not to disorganize the state, these two parties would immediately form a coalition that would guarantee a stable government until the next elections, during which each citizen would have a much better visibility to choose who would represent him.