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French press review 19 October 2017


Can we trust the rich not to run away with the tax rebates being proposed in next year's budget? What is the government doing to slow illegal immigration? And is Chinese president Xi Jinping the worthy successor of Chairman Mao?

In its ongoing discussion of the French budgetary proposals to stop taxing the very well off, Le Monde this morning asks "Can we trust the rich?"

The answer is important, since the Macron administration believes that leaving the pampered few a bit of extra cash will have positive benefits for the rest of us. The well-heeled won't flee to countries where the tax regime is less rigorous, they might even invest their extra boodle in local businesses. That's the theory.

Hence the question of trust.

Le Monde takes the long view. The French have a bizarre attitude to money, especially when we're talking lots of, it says. The Catholic roots of French society are anchored in the idea that money is basically evil, the rich man finding it easier to get into heaven than a camel can get through the eye of a needle and so on.

But the society needs its clumsy camels so that they can prime the economic machine with their investments. That creates wealth for everyone. President Emmanuel Macron wants to encourage those who have lots to take risks by giving them more to take risks with. The total sum the budget proposes to give to the best-off one percent of French society is 3.2 billion euros, about the amount it costs to run the National Scientific Research Centre for a year.

Macron wants his rich people to show a bit of gumption, to throw in their lot - or at least some of their lot - with the rest of us. But he has no way of knowing what they'll do, and no way of stopping them if they decide to stash the cash in Ulan Bator rather than a Toulon bath-maker.

The signs are unpromising. The last Socialist government gave the bosses 33 billion euros in reduced social security contributions to encourage the creation of one million jobs. To date, three years down the line, those charges continue to be reduced but less than 300,000 jobs have been created. That works out at 110,000 euros per job. Nice work if you can get it.

Macron and immigration

Le Figaro gives pride of place to another government headache, the problem of controlling immigration. The right-wing paper says Emmanuel Macron has made all the right noises, so far as Le Figaro is concerned, promising a firm line against those who would sneak into France illegally. Now he has to turn the talk into action.

Yesterday the president told police chiefs that he can't expect the middle classes to understand that France is going to accommodate immigrants without putting some form of control in place. Le Figaro says Macron is clearly trying to calm the suspicions of traditional right-wing voters, with immigration still a key political issue.

A crucial part of the problem is that France does not have the space to hold illegal entrants while waiting to send them back to their countries of origin, the paper says.

The right-wing paper's editorial is headlined "Let's have some results," a repeat of the call for action to match the determined presidential tone.

Yesterday's address to the nation's police was, for Le Figaro, an attempt by the ex-banker president to show that he has other interests than the economy. And an effort by the man accused of being a president of the rich that he can listen to middle-class fears as well. The message is basically: we have no money to hand out but we can make life safer.

He could have done more, says Le Figaro. He could have made unregistered residence in France a crime, as it used to be before the last Socialist government tore up the law. And he had practically nothing to say about the drug trade, a scourge which makes life impossible for many in the nation's suburban wastelands and which is not without its links to Islamic terrorism, in Le Figaro's opinion.

Chinese president Xi consolidates his grip on power

Left-leaning Libération gives the honours to Chinese president Xi Jinping, saying he has now fully taken on the mantle of party founder Chairman Mao, becoming the uncontested helmsman of the Chinese Communist Party, which is holding its five-yearly nation congress this week.

Xi has supervised the exposure and punishment of 1.3 million corrupt officials, has made official visits to no fewer than 56 countries, has administered a huge Chinese version of the post-war US Marshall Plan. He's authoritarian, centralist and takes no prisoners. But he gets the job done.

Xi has even taken control of the Chinese economy, a domain traditionally left to the prime minister. He wants his vast nation to profit from globalisation. But he doesn't want any interference from the media, non-government organisations, university professors, feminists or ethnic minorities. Thank you very much.