France needs a Margaret Thatcher: UK magazine

27th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Oct 27, 2006 (AFP) - France needs a "Madame Thatcher", the Gallic equivalent of Britain's first female prime minister, to haul it out of its deep socio-economic malaise, The Economist magazine said Friday.

LONDON, Oct 27, 2006 (AFP) - France needs a "Madame Thatcher", the Gallic equivalent of Britain's first female prime minister, to haul it out of its deep socio-economic malaise, The Economist magazine said Friday.

In a 16-page special ahead of French presidential elections next year, the weekly compares France to Britain in the 1970s, which was seen to be in terminal decline and impossible to reform until the "Iron Lady" took power in 1979.

The magazine severely criticises France's 35-hour working week and public sector spending levels as well as spiralling unemployment, higher education failures, high unemployment and the poor integration of ethnic minorities.

It also calls for a "rethink" on foreign policy and condemns the general "paralysis" at the heart of power in Paris.

"The real issue is not whether France is reformable — for the answer must be yes. It is whether there is a Madame Thatcher who has the courage to take on vested interests," its editorial said.

But the magazine said the prognosis was not encouraging, doubting the abilities of left-wingers Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Laurent Fabius or Ségolène Royal or right-wing Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy to take on a reformist role.

Yet despite such "unpromising material", the magazine said "France's 'dame' or 'homme de fer' (iron lady or man) does not need to be quite as iron-clad as the former British prime minister".

"If the next French president can push through the reforms needed to restore the country's competitiveness, France could rebound far more quickly than the 'declinologues' assert," it added, referring to those who espouse "declinism" — the belief that the country is unreformable.

Reform was not impossible because "for almost every weakness, it is to possible to find a matching strength", be it France's world-class elite universities, its multinational companies or well-regarded public officials.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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