When comparing the discussions on public debt in France with those taking place everywhere else in Europe, the United States or Japan, we can only be dismayed: here, on the left-wing like on the right-wing, the watchword is « Please do not talk about anything that is disturbing. And for that, let’s launch some nice little and unimportant debate. »
On the right, to get rid of cumbersome election promises, we invent a Franco-German imaginary urgency of fiscal convergence, only to talk about transferring billions from one tax to another.
On the left, under the pretext of talking about social justice, we only debate about the best way to move a share of taxes to the richest 3%. Here again, just a few billion to transfer from one taxpayer to another.
For labor and management, it’s not better. Labor unions talk about adding more taxes and contributions to be paid by companies when employers recommend instead the transfer of expenses on VAT or CSG (supplementary social security contribution).
This would be beautiful and fine if the most pressing issues were not quite different: indeed today it is not only a question of knowing if our taxes are the most effective or just, but to know, much more prosaically, if, all in all, they are high enough.
Let’s sum up the facts: if we do not find, by the end of 2013, 75 billion Euros, in expenditure or revenue, the public debt, which will in any case exceed on this date 90% of GDP, will continue to increase up to 120%. And then, the country will no longer be sovereign: its debt will no longer be fundable, and savings imposed by lenders will be then much greater.
And yet, for these 75 billion to be sufficient, it would require of France an average GDP growth of 2% per year during this period. If it is closer to 1.5% as it would likely be, it would be 90 billion Euros at least that would be needed.
However, at best, in the 2011 budgets of the State, of local authorities and social security, we found 12.
Therefore there are at least 63 to be found in two years, at least 32 in 2012, nearly three times what was gathered in 2011. In an election year and with a public debate in which there is only one question of how to transfer some 3 or 4 billion from one tax to another.
Consequently, nothing serious will be done, neither in 2011 nor in 2012. In any case nothing before the presidential elections. After that, of course, a policy of austerity will be set up. No matter who wins.
All this threatens to make the presidential campaign which begins derisory: First, because no one has, for now, the courage, neither on the right nor on the left, to talk seriously about the public debt. Secondly, because, whatever the outcome of the polls, Dominique Strauss Kahn will be at the Elysee in May 2012: either as president, or as IMF Managing Director in charge of imposing to Nicolas Sarkozy savings and tax increases that he didn’t want in order to seek re-election.
In other words, the choice between one or the other is becoming irrelevant.
Unless the lenders, called « the markets », aware of this French cowardice accelerate the deadlines by raising rates and requiring immediate savings, as they already do in other European countries. That would cool off a lot of enthusiasm, and much less people would be tempted to come and manage the worst rigor that France would have imposed to herself. We cannot even exclude, in this case, if Nicolas Sarkozy or Dominique Strauss Kahn would be candidates. Opening the door to all possibilities.