Eric Woerth: “Pensions, education … Macron will accelerate the country’s transformation”

Long before the defeat of Valérie Pécresse in the first round of the presidential election, Éric Woerth, Nicolas Sarkozy’s former budget minister, announced in early February that he was joining Emmanuel Macron. For him, the head of state is the most competent to lead a country that, he believes, must face greater challenges than those that happened to him in 2017. retirement, increasing the level of skills of young people and employees, emphasis on public spending effectiveness. Everything must be done to increase the employment rate and potential growth of the country, the only ways to preserve our social model. The roadmap for a potential future minister? Interview.

The various candidates spoke little about the weight of debt during this campaign. Are you afraid that this taboo debate will return like a boomerang in the five-year period that begins?

We are coming out of this pandemic with, all over the world, a public debt that has exploded. Except for now, in fact, few people care. Inflation, purchasing power, terms and cost of the transition, these are the main concerns of the French. The different candidates had decided to put more emphasis on the content of the crises and the solutions they proposed. But debt obviously remains an inescapable issue, and Emmanuel Macron, whose re-election I am grateful for, knows this well. Because at some point, its weight will expose us to rising interest rates. This is a very important issue because the European Central Bank will have to deal with a contradiction: not stifling growth while facing the inflationary shock.

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Do you fear this rise in interest rates and their consequences for state finances?

Of course, as the rise in interest rates will weigh on the debt burden. An additional interest rate point is about 25 billion to 30 billion additional interest paid by France to its creditors over the next ten years. These are considerable sums that would seriously harm our public finances. However, we are facing a wall of investments to come, in digital technology, ecology and many other areas that will require a transformation of our social models and will also require enhanced social support. These are, as Emmanuel Macron points out, “profound paradigm shifts.” All this obviously entails additional public spending that should not weaken the country’s financial sovereignty. Therefore, decisions will have to be made on public spending while reducing the public debt-to-GDP ratio.

You say “make elections”: what do you think should be the effort of the next government?

We are totally obsessed in France with the notion of the amount of public spending. More definitely better! However, we must replace this notion of quantity with that of quality. The main indicator is the efficiency of public spending. In addition, to strengthen our social model, it is absolutely necessary to increase the level of potential growth through work. This means being able to produce more collectively. It is the result of many reforms: an increase in the country’s skills, a national education that takes students to higher levels, lifelong vocational training and, as a whole, an increase in the employment rate that passes due to the fall in structural unemployment that has already begun, with young people entering the labor market earlier and older people leaving later, as in all of Europe …

Do we inevitably reach the age of legality, one of the hallmarks of Emmanuel Macron’s campaign?

Yes! Obviously, in the coming years we will have to gradually increase the retirement age to protect our remuneration model, which is above all a model of solidarity between generations. It will also be necessary, as proposed by Emmanuel Macron, to raise the minimum pension to € 1,100 and finance the unit. But there were also many other markers in the campaign. For example, to accelerate entry into the labor market, Emmanuel Macron proposed a reform of the vocational training institute and an intensification of learning. The aim is to get young people to get their first job faster. Taken together, all this will lead to more growth and therefore more purchasing power. In fact, it is by increasing the growth potential that we will be able to reduce public debt and deficit-to-GDP ratios. These reforms are crucial.

But can we approve all the reforms you have mentioned in a less dynamic international context if we refer to the latest forecasts from the International Monetary Fund?

Obviously the current context is complicated. But reforms are the only way to free up lasting leeway for the future. If we do not, the situation will be much worse and will cost much more in France.

Purchasing power is the main concern of the French. What needs to be done to address this concern?

To respond to the immediate concern of the purchasing power, there is no other solution than to do what the government has been doing for a few months now: one-off aid. Emmanuel Macron has promised, for example, food control over the energy control model and the continuation of the energy shield. Obviously, all of these measures have a budget cost that will be financed with debt, but in reality, the public cost would be much higher if the government did not. It’s the whole paradox of times of crisis: when you do something it’s expensive but if you don’t, in the end it costs you a lot more.

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What do you fear most about the coming months, the social anger over the inflationary shock, a season 2 of the Yellow Jackets?

France is structurally more pessimistic than many other countries. So in general, this is never a good time to reform. It is never time to raise the retirement age even if it is necessary to save our pay system. It is never time to say that public spending should slow down. These reforms require efforts from both sides and these efforts will produce more work, more purchasing power, less unemployment. However, full employment, which is the goal at the end of the five-year period, means less social spending, more contributions and more investment and, ultimately, more growth … It is a very virtuous thing but it has been to know how. to keep it in time. The answer is to accelerate the transformation of our country. This is the only way for the French to live better and for France to be more peaceful, more powerful and to look calmly into the future.


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