French weekly magazines review
“A few dollars more” may well have been a common story line for the magazines this week, as they react to president Francois Hollande’s latest television interview. The French Head of State, pressed by plunging poll figures, unveiled a 20 billion tax plan and a scheme to cut government spending by 10 billion euros in order to balance the budget and trim the public deficit from 4.5 per cent of the French GDP to three per cent by 2013.
Le Canard Enchaîné says the agenda is easier to set than to implement in a year of zero economic growth. The satirical weekly says the President’s “rhythm and blues” about going ahead with his youth job scheme while trying to meet the EU's golden rule on budget discipline is perilous at a time of austerity. According to the paper, the risk is that the promises will backfire if he fails to deliver on them.
“Change is not coming to France now but in two years time”, comments L’Express as it observed the strategic restructuring of the President’s action plan. The right-wing magazine notes that the “happy times" promised by President Hollande can only be expected in 2014.
According to the journal, now is the time to “rectify “state accounts and to pave the way for economic recovery. L’Express holds that while the first objective is credible, the second is less convincing.
Le Canard Enchaîné also examines the so-called Bernard Arnault affair which began after France’s richest man sought Belgian nationality. There is speculation that this was a plan to escape a proposed 75 per cent tax on incomes exceeding one million euros. The satirical weekly reports the owner of the luxury giant LVMH first denied the plan after it was leaked to the press and then backtracked by saying that he needed the dual nationality to seal a business deal. Arnault stated that he will continue to pay his taxes in France.
Le Nouvel Observateur says this is not Monsieur Arnault’s first attempt at tax evasion, underlining that he sought refuge in the United States for three years when Socialist President Francois Mitterrand was elected in 1981. The truth, according to Le Canard, is that Bernard Arnault needs to relocate to Belgium in order to save money for his five children because wealth, capital gains and succession rights are not subjected to taxes in the kingdom.
Marianne has a special issue on ”these tycoons who betray France”. The left-leaning journal argues Bernard Arnault’s application for Belgian citizenship exposes the extent of “abuses by some super rich people”: their lack of interest in national issues, selfishness and disdain for their country.
For the record, Marianne puts the revenue generated by Arnault’s Luxury Empire at 300 million euros a year, his personal wages standing at an estimated 10 million euros per month. A fiscal expert tells the magazine that the tax rate imposed on Arnault’s personal wages and corporate earnings represent less than 10 per cent of his colossal fortune.
Le Point reports it is not just the wealthy who are tempted to leave France. According to the conservative magazine, an estimated 10,000 French citizens are also migrating to Canada every year in search of jobs.
Le Point runs excerpts of a new book by graft-busting lawmaker Réné Dosière, described by the magazine as the “hidden scandal of billions of euros dilapidated by the regions”. Dosière puts the number of councilors elected in France at 600,000, pointing out that regions have increased their workforce by 546,000 civil servants since 1998. The lawmaker says the government can save up to 15 billion euros if it takes serious steps to end what he labels a “national madness”.
Le Nouvel Observateur takes up disturbing revelations by two leading French physicians who claim that half of the pills on sale in French pharmacies are either “useless or deadly”. Professors Bernard Debré and Philippe Even reached the conclusion after testing more than 4000 essential drugs.
The medics underline the paradox that 75 per cent of the medicines are on the the list of drugs that can be refunded through health insurance. The physicians’ believe up to 15 billion euros is being squander on junk drugs in France every single year.