Hollande’s cabinet imagines France in 2025
France must “choose, not suffer,” President François Hollande told his cabinet during a seminar on “France in 2025” at the Élysée Palace yesterday.
French President Francois Hollande (L) escorts France’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault at the Elysee Palace in Paris after the government seminar.
“The future is not what is going to happen but what we are going to do,” Hollande added, quoting the philosopher Henri Bergson.
Hollande had asked his ministers to compose essays on how they imagine France 12 years from now. Le Point magazine posted texts by the ministers on the economy, industry, housing, the interior and justice on its website.
In the ministers’ imagination, the France of 2025 will enjoy full employment and will have halted its industrial decline. Homelessness will be a thing of the past. The internet will enable police to solve more crimes, and there will be no overcrowding in prisons.
The minister for the economy and finance, Pierre Moscovici, began with the warning that France, at present the world’s fifth economic power, will probably slide to eight or ninth place, being overtaken by India and Brazil.
France will have “fully recovered her budgetary sovereignty,” Moscovici said, without explaining what that will mean for the “economic government” of Europe which France has long demanded. Moscovici warned against the folly of copying Germany by “attempting, with substantial public expenditure, to rebuild a lost industry”. The German model “may be ideal in the short term,” he wrote, but it “will no longer correspond to the state of the world economy in 10 years” because emerging countries will need less German equipment. France should therefore concentrate on the upper end of the technology spectrum.
The young and ambitious industry minister Arnaud Montebourg seems to envision himself in the Élysée in 2025. The world will have undergone a “third industrial revolution” and “Europe is henceforward able to counterbalance the giants of the internet”, Montebourg predicts. “By choosing more than a decade ago to concentrate her efforts on future growth sectors . . . France has moved up in rank in the most dynamic markets and plays a leading role today,” he adds.
By 2017, Montebourg predicts, France will have produced one of the best-selling vehicles in Europe, capable of travelling 100km on two litres of petrol. The “factory of the future” programme will have “defined a French model of production which after Ford and Toyota will be a global competitive model, in competition with models developed in Germany (Siemens) and China (Foxconn)”.
The housing minister Cécile Duflot predicts “a new age of housing”. Thanks to laws adopted under during her tenure, “Everyone will have a roof over their head and an environment of quality . . . Access to housing will no longer be a factor of stress and uncertainty, but a pleasant stage in life.”
The contribution of the justice minister Christiane Taubira is sure to enrage interior minister Manuel Valls, with whom she has clashed over prison policy. At present, France has 68,000 prisoners in penitentiaries designed to hold 57,500. Overcrowding will end, Taubira writes, “through the development of alternatives to incarceration”.
New forms of punishment will “have a meaning, healing for the victims, appropriately punishing the author of the crime and making possible his reintegration”.
The right mocked the socialists’ exercise in futurology. “If a lot of French people dream of 2025,” said Le Figaro’s front-page editorial, “it’s because François Hollande will no longer be in power.”
In a speech on the steps of the Élysée after the government seminar, prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that “nations who succeed are those who project themselves into the future”. Addressing critics who accuse the government of neglecting the present, Ayrault continued: “Thinking about France 10 years from now means thinking about the problems of 2013, which means working on the solutions to solve them.”
Future – or past? Ayrault admitted that the creation of a General Commissariat for Strategy and Forecasting, which will report its findings at the end of this year, was modelled on the General Commissariat for Planning, created under Gaullists and communists at the end of the second World War.