The communist economic policies of the Castro dictatorship have worked so well in Cuba that there is no doubt France’s socialist politicians behind the Cuban-style communist policies in that country are still scratching their heads trying to figure out what went wrong.
No more Cuban-style policies?
IN MANY respects, the new French government, which was unveiled today, looks a lot like the old one. The reformist Manuel Valls is still prime minister. Laurent Fabius stays on as foreign minister; Michel Sapin continues as finance minister; Jean-Yves Le Drian keeps his job at defence; Ségolène Royal remains in charge of the environment and energy; Bernard Cazeneuve stays at the interior ministry.
But there was one big surprise, as symbolic as it was encouraging: the appointment of Emmanuel Macron (pictured) to replace Arnaud Montebourg as industry and economy minister. Aged only 36, Mr Macron was until June this year economic adviser at the Elysée, the presidential palace, where he saw it as his mission to steer the Socialist government under President François Hollande away from its paleo-thinking towards a more modern form of social democracy. Mr Macron resigned after Mr Hollande installed the moderate Mr Valls as prime minister, arguing that this job was done.
If Mr Valls wanted to send a message with his new government, Mr Macron is it. Mr Montebourg, who was ousted the previous day, had a knack of irking foreign investors, once telling Mittal, a steel company, that it was “not welcome” in France. Mr Macron, by contrast, spent much time privately picking up the pieces, arguing to investors that France was in fact open for business. Of Mr Hollande’s election-campaign promise in 2012 to set a sky-high top income-tax rate of 75%, Mr Macron once said scathingly, “it’s Cuba without the sun!”.
By itself, of course, Mr Macron’s appointment will not make it any easier for Mr Valls to press ahead with the politically daunting job of sorting out France’s squeezed public finances and trying to revive the stagnant economy. Nor will it put an end to the debate, led by Mr Montebourg and other fellow anti-austerity Socialist deputies outside government, over the pace of fiscal consolidation. But it does at least suggest that the Valls government is serious about pursuing a more business-friendly approach, and about starting to bring the largely unreconstructed left into line with the rest of Europe’s social democrats.