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11.16.19

Understanding Thierry Breton: Chirac’s Entrepreneurial “Joker”

Posted in Europe at 12:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Overview

Understanding Thierry Breton

Further parts pending review and research


Thierry Breton as Entrepreneurial Joker
Breton fêted as “Chirac’s joker” following his appointment as Minister for the Economy.

Summary: Minister in charge of the public treasury was not a career politician but an “entrepreneur” with a proven track-record as a financial wizard and “cost-killer”

A new chapter in Thierry Breton’s high-flying career opened in February 2005 when he was persuaded by Jacques Chirac to head the Ministry of the Economy and Finance after the serving Minister Hervé Gaymard was forced to resign.

Gaymard’s resignation followed revelations by the satirical and investigative newspaper “Le Canard enchaîné” on 16 February 2005 that the government was funding an exclusive apartment for the Gaymard family (his wife and his 8 children) located in a exclusive neighbourhood in Paris near the Champs-Élysées.

The apartment reportedly had an area of 600 m² and cost the state a monthly rental of € 14,000. On top of this, the state was also funding € 3,300 a month for maintenance and three parking spaces, € 42,000 to renovate the apartment and the parking area, and € 16,000 in real estate fees.

“Gaymard was particularly exposed because he had proclaimed that the French should become “detoxified” of public spending. One of the main planks of his programme was the reduction of public expenditure.”Although Gaymard’s use of state funds was not illegal, the exposure of the lavish perks which he enjoyed at the expense of the tax-payers and his attempts to conceal the facts in interviews caused serious political fall-out for Chirac’s government at a time when it was preaching austerity to the French public and calling for the acceptance of ever-increasing economic sacrifices in the face of an economic crisis symbolised by an unemployment rate which reached 10% in January 2005, the highest level in over five years.

Gaymard was particularly exposed because he had proclaimed that the French should become “detoxified” of public spending. One of the main planks of his programme was the reduction of public expenditure. In addition to this, his responsibilities included the regulation of the housing market which meant that he should have been aware of the difficulties facing families seeking affordable accommodation.

Herve Gaymard
Hervé Gaymard departs as Thierry Breton moves in to take his position.

In response to the political crisis triggered by the revelations about Gaymard’s extravagance, President Jacques Chirac persuaded Breton to take his place on the team of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

Raffarin himself resigned shortly afterwards on 30 May 2005 after the rejection of the proposed European Constitution by the French electorate in a referendum.

Raffarin’s successor Dominique de Villepin retained Breton as Minister for the Economy.

Dominique de Villepin
Breton in discussion with Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

Breton’s arrival at the head of Bercy (as the Ministry of Economy and Finance is colloquially known in France), was hailed as an exciting new departure because the new Minister in charge of the public treasury was not a career politician but an “entrepreneur” with a proven track-record as a financial wizard and “cost-killer”.

“In response to the political crisis triggered by the revelations about Gaymard’s extravagance, President Jacques Chirac persuaded Breton to take his place on the team of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.”He was fêted in the business press as “Chirac’s joker”, a veteran champion of the business world who had reportedly abandoned a lucrative career as CEO of France Télécom in order to put his skills to use in the political arena for the public good.

In the next part we will take a look at Breton’s ministerial track record at Bercy.

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