French press review 6 December 2012
Cannabis, government borrowing and Arcelor-Mittal are among the big stories in France today.
The debate about the health implications continues to divide medical opinion, but those in favour of legalisation insist it's a good move to take the weed, however wicked it may be, out of the hands of the criminal classes.
And there's no doubting the financial benefits. Legalising marijuana will bring in an estimated one billion dollars in additional taxes each year for the state of Washington, based on a 25 per cent sales tax on the drug.
The Libération editorial is headlined "Hypocrisy" and criticises French inaction (shared by both right and left of the political spectrum) on the subject of so-called "soft" drugs. Why not take responsibility for a domain currently run by dangerous gangsters, asks Libé, so as to be in a position to control the quality, the toxicity and the price of the drug. The left-wing paper even suggests, probably maliciously, the nationalisation of the cannabis industry.
There's good news on the front page of business daily Les Echos. The main headline reads "French debt has never cost so little". Despite the recent Moody's downgrade and the general air of gloom and doom, the cost to the state of borrowing money to be paid back in ten years' time has dropped below two per cent for the first time ever.
Asian and middle-eastern investors are the main buyers, particularly active being regional central bankers, and the principal explanation for their enthusiasm is, would you believe, Moody's and the other ratings agencies who have recently decimated the ranks of the triple-A nations, forcing the well-heeled to move down a peg in their search for long-term security for their spare cash.
The Arcelor-Mittal steel saga continues to occupy front-page space. Yesterday, the government sealed a deal with Lahksmi Mittal to protect the jobs of workers who will be moved from the Florange blast furnace to other parts of the Mittal empire.
The unions are disappointed, fearing that the closure will spell the end of the French steel industry. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has defended the compromise deal, saying protecting the jobs was his priority.
Arcelor-Mittal has promised to invest at least 180 million euros in Florange over five years, but union representatives point to former promises by the steel billionaire, promises which the unions claim were totally ignored.
Right wing Le Figaro says the deal is further evidence of deep divisions within the ruling socialist party and that, if Florange had any real commercial future, in other words, if it was worth throwing 180 million further euros into, Lahksmi Mittal would already have taken the matter in hand.
Of course, the French papers regret the passing of the American jazz pianist, Dave Brubeck. Brubeck died yesterday of a heart attack, just one day short of his 92nd birthday. He will be remembered for making jazz accessible to a new, younger audience in the '40s and '50s, especially with hits like Blue Rondo à la Turk (based on a theme borrowed from Mozart), and Take Five, from the first-ever million-selling jazz album, Time Out.