Édouard Philippe loves cinema and its famous lines. Invited on Tuesday noon by the business leaders of the Ethic movement chaired by Sophie de Menthon, the former Prime Minister did not hesitate to call on the Tontons Flingueurs to answer a question on the deficit, which is widening from historic levels. “We are preparing for nervous breakdowns,” replied the mayor of Le Havre, favorite in the polls for the next Presidential election. And added: “I have no problem saying that it will end badly.”
From January to August 2023, the state deficit reached a historic record of 187.93 billion euros, or 9.9 billion euros more than the previous peak of 2020 in the midst of the Covid crisis. During the presentation of the budget last week, the government stated the objective of reducing the public deficit (State, local authorities and social security administrations) from 4.9% of GDP this year to 4.4% in 2024. A figure that is “a little optimistic” in the eyes of the High Council of Public Finances and which worries business leaders. Especially since the debt has exceeded the 3,000 billion euros mark and the debt burden could become the main expenditure item for the State, ahead of national education. “But when you eliminate spending, you have more people against you than behind you”, underlined a bit ironically Édouard Philippe, recalling that “the main part of public spending is pensions and health”. And the former prime minister observed that while health spending is increasing in all OECD countries, “it has gone from less than 1% of GDP at the beginning of the 20th century to 11% to 12% of GDP today. 'today'.
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Asked by entrepreneurs what is needed for France, the former prime minister regrets “the absence of a long-term strategy” and the absence of “a shared political project”. But, to immediately add that mayors have a role to play. “This forward-looking strategic thinking is found more in local communities than in the State. A mayor can think about his city in 30 years,” explains the mayor of Le Havre. And to evoke the Hugolian figure of Jean Valjean, transformed into Monsieur Madeleine, mayor and captain of industry who brings prosperity to the town of Montreuil-sur-Mer and its inhabitants.
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In the long list of dangers that await France, Édouard Philippe considers that the most worrying is “the relative impoverishment of the middle classes”, judging that “no democratic nation can resist it”. Despite a frank speech - "it's crazy" he repeats on various occasions on the inflation of standards or laws for example -, Édouard Philippe has left entrepreneurs wanting more, for lack of concrete proposals. Perhaps the time has not yet come. However, many of them came to listen to him in the salons of the Cercle Interallié, “more than 250, beating Nicolas Sarkozy’s previous record,” underlines Sophie de Menthon. While the former Prime Minister releases a book “Des places qui dit”, in which he evokes the places which founded his relationship with the world, the word business is never mentioned there, regretted the boss of Ethic. Quite a symbol.