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11.17.19

Understanding Thierry Breton: The “Cost-Killer” Tries to Tame the National Debt

Posted in Europe, Finance at 10:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Overview

Understanding Thierry Breton

Further parts pending review and research


Breton at Bercy
The new boss at Bercy strikes a hawkish pose.

Summary: The oligarchic policy of Thierry Breton at Bercy

Breton’s economic policy focused on the need to reform public finances, specifically to reduce the national debt.

In June 2005 he declared that France was living beyond its means, a sentiment echoing the words of the Prime Minister Raymond Barre in 1976. He announced to the French people that the entirety of their income tax was only sufficient to finance the interest payments on the national debt and declared that his primary goal would be the maintenance of public deficit below a level of 3% of GDP in 2005 and 2006.

“Breton’s economic policy focused on the need to reform public finances, specifically to reduce the national debt.”At the end of 2005 France’s deficit fell to 2.9% of its GDP after three consecutive years of surpassing the figure of 3%. In 2006 the public deficit was further reduced to 2.5% and public debt was recorded to have dramatically fallen to 63.9% of GDP. For the first time since 1995 the country’s budget was in a situation of primary surplus.

Although Breton gained some acclaim for his efforts in tackling the national debt situation, the general perception of him was as a pro-business advocate of ultra-liberal reforms for the benefit of the few rather than the many.

“Although Breton gained some acclaim for his efforts in tackling the national debt situation, the general perception of him was as a pro-business advocate of ultra-liberal reforms for the benefit of the few rather than the many.”For example, in an interview with Le Figaro, Breton criticised France’s wealth tax, “l’impôt de solidarité sur la fortune” (ISF) stating that it had become “no longer a wealth tax, but simply yet another tax on the savings and housing of our fellow citizens, who are by no means all wealthy”. For Breton, it was a “costly” and “economically dangerous” tax.

A cartoon from this period pokes fun at his stance on the ISF by referring to the “intense emotion” generated in the National Assembly with a plea to the parliamentary deputies to open their hearts to “all those poor wealthy people who are obliged to leave this country of misery in a clandestine manner in their luxury yachts…”

Breton cartoon
Breton generates intense emotion with a plea to parliamentary deputies to open their hearts to “all those poor wealthy people … obliged to flee France in their luxury yachts”.

Breton’s term as Minister came to an end on 15 May 2007 at the conclusion of Jacques Chirac’s five-year term as President of France. His successor was Jean-Louis Borloo, appointed as Minister of the Economy by the newly elected President, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Breton walks
The Minister for Funny Walks preparing to return to the greener pastures of the private sector

Before looking at what Thierry did next, we will take a small diversion to examine some “incidents” which cast a shadow over his term of office in Bercy, most notably “Rhodiagate”, the Vivendi Universal affair and the insider trading scandal at EADS.

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