It was just over a year ago, towards the end of the summer of 2021. The Covid-19 attack seemed to be slowing down and the election campaign was slowly getting underway. After 18 months of uninterrupted support to households and businesses, public finance problems should clearly return to the fore.
Faced with the 150 billion euros that the government has mobilized and with a budget deficit of more than 9% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), it is hard to look away. The 2008 crisis showed it: France could lose the support of the financial markets at any time. “Whatever it takes, it’s over”The economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, had also warned the bosses gathered for the Medef summer school to prepare people for some form of budgetary normalization.
Inflation has come to shake the agenda
Politically, the proponents of strictness also felt that their time had come. The moment was favorable: Across the Channel, faced with rising debt, public account recovery became the priority, Boris Johnson had even announced corporate tax hikes.
In France, former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe launched his new party, Horizons, with a clear manifesto: “Restore order in the accounts. » And on the right saw a boulevard open in front of it, preparing to attack Emmanuel Macron for his management of taxpayers’ money, accusing him, according to the formula of Valérie Pécresse, of “burn the box” with each of his announcements.
Logically, the end of Covid-19 should have led to a phase of “fiscal consolidation”, as the experts say. But the story didn’t go as planned. Inflation, triggered by the evictions and then the war in Ukraine, has shaken the agenda, making a quick exit from policies supporting the economy impossible. The executive had to keep the floodgates open and chose to protect households more than anywhere else in Europe. An arbitration reaffirming the draft 2023 budget, which will begin consideration in the National Assembly on Monday, October 10, with the maintenance a tariff shield that will cost 45 billion euros next year.
In doing so, the head of state did not have to assume the political and social risks of a return to orthodoxy that seemed inevitable. A scenario where there was nothing to criticize. “A austerity policy could have been explosive at the end of the health crisis, highlighting the difficulties of workers in the first and second linerecalls Emmanuel Rivière, director of Kantar Public. Especially since the deterioration of public services was a theme that was already very present before the Covid. »
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