Bloomberg BusinessWeek

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French CEOs: ‘Help!’
Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Over the past few weeks, an extraordinary cry of alarm has risen from chief executives who warn that the French economy has gone dangerously off track. In an interview to be published on Nov. 15 in the magazine l’Express, Chief Executive Officer Henri de Castries of financial-services group Axa warns that France is rapidly losing ground, not only against Germany but against nearly all its European neighbors. “There’s a strong risk that in 2013 and 2014, we will fall behind economies such as Spain, Italy, and Britain,” de Castries says.

On Oct. 28, a group of 98 CEOs published an open letter to Hollande that said public-sector spending, which at 56 percent of gross domestic product is the highest in Europe, “is no longer supportable.” The letter was signed by the CEOs of virtually every major French company.

The outcry is unusual for France Inc., which has tended to lobby behind the scenes and avoid public criticism of the government. Heavy taxes and social charges required to support high government spending have eroded corporate profitability. In the l’Express interview, de Castries says that on average, the government charges incurred by his company for each employee are more than double the employee’s take-home pay.

C’est presque une description du Québec… Il faut dire que le PQ a toujours vu le Québec comme une colonie française. Ne reste plus qu’à espérer que les hommes d’affaires québécois auront le même courage que leurs homologues français !