What Labour Minister Sapin Really Meant?
Written by Hilary Barnes
Did France's minister of labour, Michel Sapin, say on a radio programme at the weekend: "France is totally bankrupt?" Yes, he did. Did he mean it? Of course not. He was just having his little joke, an ironical flight of rhetoric by way of repeating almost exactly the same words used by Francois Fillon, then France's prime minister, in 2007.
"Only those appalling journalists, who take everything literally, could possibly have understood me to say "France is bankrupt", especially as I went on to say that this was why the government was making such an effort to reduce the budget deficit as otherwise France might actually go bankrupt. Got it now?"
"Of course, I should never have said it. It might lead some foreigners, who have even less sense of humour than the hacks, to believe I meant it, when all I meant was that a man like Francois Fillon must have been out of his mind so say anything so ridiculous, and anyway anyone who knows anything about the dynamics of austerity knows that it has a good chance of making us bankrupt, just like it did for Greece, and that's why we're trying to reduce our budget deficit."
"I hope those leaches at Goldman and the like have got it: we're not bankrupt! That's why you're so pleased to lend us all we want at lower interest rates that we have ever had to pay before."
"And let me tell those journalists at Le Figaro, who think they have found five good reasons in the edition of January 29 why France ought to be described as bankrupt, that they have got it all wrong.
"We are the world's fifth and Europe's second strongest economic power. You don't think anyone is going to let us go bankrupt surely, especially when you see how we are slapping taxes on the rich and business, all of which will now have to work twice hard to generate the same take-home income as before, and that is bound to mean they have to create lots of more jobs.
"Smart, aren't we ? And now buzz off. I've got work to do."