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Eye on France: A good place to invest your money

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Paris's central business district at La Défence. A very attractive place for foreign money. Getty Images

France is doing well in a number of international surveys, notably, for the first time ever, the country is listed among the top five most attractive nations for foreign investment.


This is reported in business daily Les Echos.

The global classification is published on an annual basis by the American consultancy A. T. Kearney. Perhaps surprisingly, the calculators at Kearney reckon that the gilets jaunes protest movement, now into its fifth month, has had no negative effect on the French economy.

What IS having an effect, according to the American guardians of other people’s money, is French President Emmanuel Macron. Global economic confidence in France has developed strongly since Macron’s election two years ago. France remains competitive.

Top of the Kearney rankings for the seventh consecutive year we find the United States, thanks to “a vast domestic market,” “competitive taxation,” and “technological capacity”.

Next come Germany, Canada and . . . shock, horror . . . the Brexit-bound United Kingdom.

China, which dominated the list for a decade between 2002 and 2012, has sunk to seventh place, its lowest ranking since the Kearney list was first published 20 years ago.  

China is suffering the negative effects of the trade war with Trump’s US, the domestic market has slowed down, exports are going nowhere, and Chinese businesses are putting on debt at a worrying rate.

Incidentally, 22 of the top 25 places to invest money are in the so-called developed world, with no African nations included, proof for the good folk at A. T. Kearney of the importance of stable government and state regulations.

Cities putting carbon in its place

And, since we’re looking at global ratings, the latest report from the Carbon Disclosure Project, CDP, puts the French capital, Paris, in the top category of world cities fighting global warming.

Of 630 cities which participated in the study this year, only 43 were awarded the top A grade.

Paris hopes to be carbon-neutral, effectively non-polluting, by the year 2050. Currently, 35 percent of the energy used in the French capital is classified as “clean”. San Francisco is doing much better, with 59 percent.

And Iceland's Reykjavik is already carbon neutral, thanks to the fact that they have geothermal energy literally bubbling out of the ground.

The climate battle is going to be fought in the cities, according to the authors of this latest report, because that’s where more than half of the global population lives, and where 70 percent of carbon pollution linked to energy actually originates.

Meanwhile, in a Paris courtroom . . .

Which brings me, finally, to Patrick and Isabelle Balkany. He is the right-wing mayor of the comfortable Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret; she is his missus, and also his chief advisor. Don’t worry. This is not another Fillon family saga. Nobody accuses Patrick of paying her indoors a hefty salary for doing nothing. Isabelle has always taken her work on the town council seriously and is, indeed, well known for putting manners on her blustering husband when he gets things wrong during public meetings.

The problem is elsewhere.

Lichtenstein, Singapore, Panama and the Seychelles, for example. Those are the homes of various offshore accounts which the Balkanys are accused of having used to defraud the French tax authorities of at least 13 million euros.

The couple went on trial in Paris this morning, accused of tax fraud and the laundering of the proceeds of such fraud. Patrick will also answer charges of passive corruption and of attempting to cover up corruption.

Apart from the serious nature of the charges, there is also the fact that Isabelle Balkany was hospitalised earlier this month after a failed suicide attempt. This followed the leaking of a Facebook text in which she described journalists as a bunch of “hopeless scribbling scavangers” and the judges investigating her and the hubby’s case as terminally prejudiced against the couple.

The case which opened today will attempt to discover the source of the money used by Mr and Mrs Balkany to finance villas which the couple own in Morocco and the West Indies.

It’s not the first time in court for the Balkanys. In 1996 they were sentenced to 15 months in jail for using Levallois-Perret's town hall funds to pay three domestic servants who worked exclusively for the couple.

This time around, there is also the fact that the couple are well known for paying cash. They claim to have spent €83,000 on travel expenses over four years, but withdrew an awful lot more from their personal bank accounts over the same period. The court will want to know where the money went and, indeed, where it came from.

It has taken the investigators over four years to produce the 92-page charge sheet against the couple. He faces ten years behind bars if found guilty; she would do five years. The trial is expected to last six weeks.

Patrick Balkany has no doubt about the outcome. He has already put his name down for next year’s mayoral election in Levallois-Perret.