Popular French Economy Minister Faces Tough Road While Reforming Economy

February 22, 2016Franceby EW News Desk Team

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Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron struggles to implement crucial reforms as politics stand in the way of progress, according to Reuters. Macron is wildly popular among French citizens, but his market-oriented approach remains a turn-off to Socialist party members, and he does not have enough support from President Francois Hollande to accomplish his goals. The president seeks reelection in 2017 and hopes to reform the economy before elections take place.

To Macron’s credit, he convinced the president to shift his policies more to the right, but his contrary views has placed him at odds with the party. For instance, he criticized the 35-hour workweek and the 75% tax on the wealthy and he opposes the president’s proposal of removing French citizenship from convicted terrorists. Macron has a reputation for speaking his mind, and he is not considered the typical politician, but his outsider status lowers his influence within the cabinet pecking order, and he finds his role increasingly diminished as Hollande adds more Green party members to his cabinet to unite the left.

Moreover, Macron finds himself in the cross hairs of Prime Minister Manuel Valls. The prime minister radically changed one of Macron’s deregulation bills, and analysts suspect that Valls is increasingly threatened by the economy minister’s rising status. According to recent polling, Macron polls at 42%, with Valls at 27%, and Hollande at 21%. Macron intends to liberalize various sectors of the economy, but the politics-as-usual climate prevents additional reforms that could enhance economic growth.  

French Output Wanes

Officials want to attract more investors, but Macron’s core ideas are falling on deaf ears, to the detriment of the economy. France's economy has improved over time, but it retains a high unemployment rate of over 10%, and Macron vowed to loosen the labor market and foster a friendlier business climate so that employers could hire more workers; however, Finance Minister Michel Sapin claimed that the government’s current 2016 growth target of 1.5% will not be enough to create additional jobs. Additionally, France is under immense pressure from the EU to produce greater output for the sake of the Eurozone, especially in light of recent news showing that French, German, and Italian industrial production declined in December.  

Macron’s Future

Macron has gained widespread support from the center-right, a crucial voting bloc for Hollande, so it stands to reason that the president will not remove him anytime soon. Macron is not a lame-duck minister, but with rising political opposition and a minimized role, he is forced to work within the confines of a government that currently places politics ahead of reform. His political future remains uncertain, but some analysts suspect he will run for president in 2022.

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