France's new finance minister has his work cut out for him.
“My roadmap is clear and simple,” Bruno Le Maire declared upon his reappointment as France’s minister of the economy and finance under the new Prime Minister Jean Castex. “It will be recovery…morning, noon and night.” Lest anyone doubt the extended power granted to Le Maire, “recovery” has been added to his official title, as in “minister of the economy, finance and recovery.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic crisis, Le Maire, 51, laid out billions to absorb the shock: generous unemployment benefits, more than €300 billion in state guaranteed loans, massive bailouts for the aeronautic, automobile and tourism industries, plus a €3.3 billion solidarity fund for small and medium-sized businesses. Nevertheless, the stimulus has not been enough, and the ex-Republican member of the National Assembly, who has been in charge of European affairs and food, agriculture and fishing in previous governments, knows it.
“It is the worst recession since 1929,” he has said several times on television interviews, “and the worst is yet to come.”
Le Maire will certainly have a busy summer preparing new employment measures to support young workers and a massive recovery plan. The objective: to limit 2020’s GDP losses as much as possible. Le Maire is also active on the international front. Along with his German counterpart, Olaf Scholz, he is pushing for special taxes on digital companies and supporting the new European recovery fund.
Le Maire recently fought tooth-and-nail with his 26 European colleagues to achieve solidarity at the EU level. “We evaded catastrophe by a hair’s breadth,” he confided to the German magazine, Der Spiegel.