President Nicolas Sarkozy promised the French he would give them details of his vision for sweeping reforms in an hour-long TV interview last night. But it didn’t quite turn out that way, as it was more of a reiteration of his ideas. Sarkozy indicated though that in the broad scheme of things he wil stick to his guns, which is likely to irritate some.
“I’d like to say to the railway workers, Parisian transport workers, gas and electricity workers and all the others that I am counting on their honesty,” he said. “I will respect their terms and conditions, but they have to understand that there cannot be two different types of French citizen: those who retire after forty years work and those who retire after thirty seven and a half.”
He says stripping this privilege from France’s public sector workers is needed to balance the books and reduce the public debt.
“France lives beyond its means,” he said. “The debt is one trillion two hundred billion euros. Public sector salaries and pensions eat up forty-five percent of the budget. If we replace every civil servant who retires, we can’t cut debt. We propose that half of all the money saved from not replacing one civil servant in two is used to raise salaries. Productivity will rise, and disposable income will improve. Fewer civil servants, but better paid. That’s a modern public sector.”
The trick for Sarkozy and his government will be to try to avoid strikes and not fold – something previous reformist administrations have failed to pull off.