The new kid at economics in France is the former banker of the Rothschilds; a personnel move surely symbolic of a new direction for Hollande
For all he represented, sacked finance minister Arnaud Montebourg had the habit of jokingly saying (the two men got on very well) that he was against the “Macron-isation of political life”. But now the French finance department has been Macron-ised. Nominated Minister for the Economy and the Digital Industry, Emmanuel Macron – former Deputy Secretary General of the Élysée who had left the presidential palace to teach and set up a financial project of his own, has entered government, striding purposefully through its biggest door.
The 36-year-old would be very much in the ‘anti-Montebourg’ camp. An assumed socio-liberal, he is pro-enterprise and inspired the market economics as espoused by President François Hollande. He has no complexes with regard to talking about the time that he was business banker for the Rothschilds. For two years, Macron was the eyes of the President of economic or financial matters and the ears of the captains of French industry at the President’s sumptuous office. How far away it seems now, the time of the presidential campaign when the candidate Hollande declared before his party faithful: “My enemy is the world of finance!” The nomination of this former collaborator of the Head of State whose mentor is Michel Rocard, is actually further proof of his wish to reinstil confidence in businesses. “A symbol of success and of the reality of the strength of the country,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said of his new finance minister.
With him, there will be very little risk indeed of any further Montebourg-esque outbursts. Here’s a man who looks you in the eye and whose words are carefully measured before speaking. In fact, it’s only in private that he allows himself a few impertinences. In the middle of the presidential campaign, when he learned that Hollande was proposing a tax of 75% on the very high salaries, he almost choked: “It’s like Cuba without the sun!” he quipped during a tight committee meeting.
Described as a very affable character by those who know him, one of his close colleagues said that “he could seduce a stone”. There is a certain level of admiration from his colleagues. As a minister in this position, his background is impeccable: the son of medical doctors, he was educated by the Jesuits in Amiens, before heading to Paris at the age of 16 to attend the prestigious Henri-IV secondary school. From there, it was a trajectory that many French refer to as “the Royal Way” – on to the ENS and the ENA (école normale supérieure and école nationale d’administration) and then the Inspection des Finances.A young ambitious man in a hurry, the deputy sectretary general had already lived several lives before joining the staff at the Élysée Palace: at 25, as a philosophy apprentice, he became assistant to Paul Ricœur (considered one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century), with whom he specialised in the study of works by Hegel and Machiavelli. He then became a researcher for the Attali Commission in 2007 – a government commission set up to improve France’s competitivity. From there, he joined the Rothschild family. He began working for the super-wealthy family at the age of 30 and found himself in 2012 in charge of one of the biggest deals of the year – the purchase by Nestlé of a subsidiary of Pfizer.
At his new ministry in Bercy, however, the policy is to have a two-headed structure, separating Economy and Finance. Emmanuel Macron will be working alongside Michel Sapin – a friend of the President who maintains the portfolio officially called Finances et des Comptes Publics (Finance and Public Accounts)
In accordance with Hollande’s desire declared at the collapse of the last government, the other day, the two men will be in tune with government thinking and should be on the same wavelength, unlike Montebourg who wanted to pursue a more Socialist agenda in this Socialist administration.
So peace reigns once more in Bercy. The new two-man team will now implement an economic and fiscal policy for France as defined by the President: restore competitivity to the country by helping businesses and cutting public spending. And keep the French public and the whole of the French Socialist Party onside at all times, of course. For a young man in a hurry, it should all be a piece of cake!