An economic miracle is emerging in France. By the middle of 1978, France had enjoyed a trade surplus for six consecutive months, in contrast to a deficit of over 10 billion francs in 1977. Inflation, which began 1977 at an annual rate of 13 per cent, had receded to 9.5 per cent by the end of 1978, and the official forecast for 1979 is 7.9 per cent. President Valery Giscard d’Estaing and Prime Minister Raymond Barre are turning the country’s flirtation with communism into a love affair with capitalism.
Prime Minister Barre has said: “I am sorry that in certain circles business and profit are regarded with suspicion. There is no business without profit. I hope we will achieve an economy and a society where businesses are considered the mainspring of production, employment and export.” In line with this philosophy, the government has returned bread prices to a totally free market for the first time since 1791. And gas and fuel prices are scheduled to be completely free from price controls by the beginning of 1980.
At the same time, the government is working to ensure that the French People have a vested interest in French business. Says Giscard d’Estaing: “The Cabinet has prepared a number of measures that will lead to broader ownership of France’s industry by French people …. Private property in France should be as widely distributed as possible. In particular, people should have the feeling that France belongs to them — and to them personally.”
According to Barre, “The government’s first concern is employment …. We aim to encourage the growth of businesses that can provide jobs or that establish themselves in certain regions with high unemployment so as to help those regions deal with social problems.” It is no accident that 600,000 new workers have found employment since the National Employment Pact went into effect on July 5, 1977.
By having the courage to apply the precepts of solid economic truth, Giscard d’Estaing and Barre are showing the world that intelligent leadership is a country’s most valuable asset.