Alain Madelin

We are less than three months from the presidential election 2002 and it is now everyday the subject of headlines in all the newspapers.

But the big favourites for the election President Jacques Chirac and the Prime Minister Lionel Jospin are not yet officially declared as candidates. They are a bit like these big stars of a show who hold themselves back while waiting their moment of glory. It is also a way of showing that they are on the job, that their work is so important that they do not have time to waste on electoral campaigns.

While waiting, looks are turned towards the other candidates. And there are 19 of them at the moment.

Alain Madelin represents the Party of the Liberal Right. He identifies himself with a liberal economy: the philosophy which supports the idea that the role of the state must be minimal, letting hands be free in private business. These ideas, very wide spread in the Anglo-Saxon world, are less accepted in France where the state remains at the centre of political debate.

But M Madelin does not want to admit that resistance to liberal ideas is a constant notion in French society.

Let’s wait and see, because one of the first reasons is that no one has ever properly explained and proposed the modern ideas of reform which abound in Europe from Tony Blair to Aznar[1]. Frankly no one has ever proposed them to them in an election. I am convinced that the majority of French people are open to such ideas.

At the time when the law on the 35 hour week was passed, Alain Madelin violently criticized it. What’s more he continues to go in this direction. It is indeed his battle horse.

On the 35 hour week, I have already explained my position. I think that the 35 hour week is a mistake. It comes from a time when we believed that there was a shortage of work, that they would be less and less work that it was necessary to share the existing jobs between the French people, that is absurd. They come from a lie: they said that it would cost nothing. They come from a doomsday machine because they are not applicable to PMEs [2], TPEs [3] and to civil servants. And for the rest they are an attack, in my eyes, a serious one, on a fundamental principle which is the principle of freedom of work. If I want to work a 40 hour week, a 45 hour week, I have the right to work the time that I want to. If I want to work less, I can work less, if I want to work more, I can work more. Note the hypocrisy moreover because I can do 22 hours in each of two different businesses, but I cannot do 36 hours in one business. It is absurd, it is grotesque and that has created a division between the France where people work a 35 hour week and a France where people work 50 hours, 60 hours and which sometimes have the feeling that they are paying by their taxes, a very heavy bill, for those 35 hour weeks. So I propose going back, having a revolution about choosing time, going back to the principle of freedom of work, having the length of work fixed by the job contract and not be a legal ruling, so getting rid of the legal reference for the principal reasons, well, again, personally I say it is a question of principle, that cannot be removed from these contracts for as much then quite clearly the agreements reached for doing 35 hours remain quite obviously applicable until the re negotiation in the case of a failure of course. But saying that, that is the business finally of the social partners [4].

And then there is the eternal theme at the bottom of all types of tax, that is always on the menu at least during electoral campaigns (after the elections… it is another story as everyone knows). Alain Madelin advocates an injection of tax payer’s money to stimulate the creation of new businesses, retaining the capital and attracting others from abroad. He accuses the current government of being opposed to the idea.

Preserving the potential of France. Well the socialists are doing exactly the opposite: organizing the repulsion. The 35 hours week, that was already quite good, the new law said to be about social modernization, it was necessary to invent it, and then to that we add the idea of having them pay social charges on the value added, well… the whole thing amounts to a tax horror.

The opposition is getting going, as we see it, and want to get back to power. Former minister of industry in an earlier government, M Madelin would like to return to the main stage. He is confident and sure of himself, impatient…

… We have not had time to think about all the reforms which we have to make.

[1] Aznar – At the time of this article the Prime Minister of Spain was José María Aznar.

[2] PME – Petites et Moyennes Entreprises – Small and Medium Enterprises, usually called SMEs in England.

[3] TPE – Très Petites Entreprises – Very Small Enterprises.

[4] Partenaires sociaux – Social Partners are the leaders of the nationalised industries and the unions which represent their employees.

$Id: 2002_02_act.htm 35 2021-02-12 12:17:35Z alistair $

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