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Growth – Competitiveness – Other challenges

Published on June 18, 2012
Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, to the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (excerpts)

Paris, June 12, 2012

(…)

GROWTH

The big question we must answer is: what social model for tomorrow’s France? For too long, social justice and economic success have been pitted against each other, as if we had to choose between one and the other. I’m convinced we need a social environment that itself enables us to give protection against life’s uncertainties and, at the same time, economic success amid the competition we now face within our own country. To manage to combine success and justice, we need to invent: invent new tools, invent new financing methods and invent new forms of relationship.

I’ve put the theme of growth at the centre of the discussions, both at the G8, where I went on the day after my investiture, and in the European debate. We – the world, Europe, France – need growth. It won’t come about simply through incantation, or even communiqués following European or global meetings. But it must be our concern, our commitment. Growth won’t come about, either, from extra public spending at a time when states are experiencing high indebtedness. But it can emerge from a shared determination – which Europe can affirm – to establish new instruments. Eurobonds, financial instruments: we can be very imaginative. We need to have more investments, both private and public, mobilize savings that are today being misused and protect our financial system, including from its own excesses – and we can see an illustration of this in Spain. We need finance to be at the service of the economy, because [otherwise] it ultimately risks weakening the economy and endangering all states.

The desire for growth doesn’t prevent genuine budgetary discipline. We’ll have to reduce public debt, restore balance to our public finances by the end of the five-year term and adopt the necessary discipline. But I’m going to let you in on a secret: however great the discipline, however heavy the sanctions, if there’s no growth then no targets can be achieved in terms of reducing [deficit in] the public finances. Conversely, unless we get rid of certain abuses, there’ll be no return to growth. The two go together, hand in hand.

COMPETITIVENESS

France’s recovery will depend on five great challenges, which your Council itself has finally taken up. The first, as I’ve said, is the competitiveness of our economy; a report has been prepared right here, and I share its conclusions. We’ve lost market share; our trade deficit exceeds €70 billion, whereas for the Germans it’s €150 billion – but a surplus. So we’ll need to opt for a reindustrialization of our country. That will involve a reorientation of our tax policy to support SMEs, [small and] medium-sized enterprises, but also support for export policies and the return of investments to our national territory. We’ll have to – and it’s obvious – allow large groups to help SMEs, both in industry and services, and take them into the international markets.

I believe in industry: it’s not an activity we should think is set to disappear because techniques are changing. On the contrary, it’ll take on other forms. Industry; services; and I’m not forgetting agriculture, which itself serves a great industry, the food industry. (…) We need production, and that’s the whole purpose of the Banque publique d’investissement. The Banque publique d’investissement mustn’t replace the banks themselves; I warn against that facile idea, because it would first of all be a burden on the resources of that bank, which wouldn’t be able to meet every need. And above all, it would mean exonerating the banks, whose purpose is to finance the economy. But this Banque publique d’investissement must bring together all the financing instruments that already exist for SMEs and for innovation and turn them into a single entry point for company leaders, so that their development plans can be supported and even expanded. The state in its capacity as shareholder will also begin thinking about its own role in the economy, to understand what a state-owned company is, what specifically it can contribute and how exemplary its conduct must be, including in remuneration terms.

OTHER CHALLENGES

Still in this spirit of recovery – and it’s a second great challenge – we’ll also carry out the energy transition. We’re going to debate this energy transition at the Rio+20 conference. (…)

The third challenge is training, education and youth. (…)

The fourth challenge we’ll have to take up is equality between the regions. (…)

A final challenge remains: that of social justice and solidarity between the generations. (…)./.

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