The French government has launched a media blitz in an attempt
to convince people that it really is winning the battle to
increase purchasing power.
In the coming weeks the French will be treated to over 1,600 TV
commercials as well as Internet advertising and full page
spreads in the national and regional daily newspapers.
It's all part of a drive by the government to get across three
measures it has taken to increase purchasing power; the drop in
the security deposit required for renting and buying properties,
tax breaks for students and untaxed overtime for those who want
Nicolas Sarkozy's major promise during his campaign last year
in the run up to the presidential elections was that he would
increase the purchasing power of the average man and woman on
the street here in France.
The solution to boost the country's sluggish economy was
simple, he maintained. He would free up the job market and
release businesses from the shackles of the 35-hour working week
thereby giving people the chance to put in overtime without it
A general "work more to earn more" mantra echoed along the
corridors of power and would make its way through the land and
eventually into the pockets of the masses. At least that was the
Except it hasn't really turned out that way at all. By all
accounts people are still feeling the pinch, the economy isn't
booming and France remains a country in which half the
population earns less than €1,500 per month.
The media has been especially critical with Sarkozy and his
government, continually questioning when the promised increase
in purchasing power would actually happen.
Sarkozy, whose approval ratings have been hovering around the
35 per cent mark for a couple of months now, even admitted in
his 90-minute long televised interview back in April that there
had been a failure in his fiscal package - but only in terms of
And that's very much the line his government is now taking in
an effort to convince people that it's on the right track.
At the launch of the campaign earlier this week French prime
minister, François Fillon, insisted that measures had been in
place for over a year to boost purchasing power but the message
hadn't come across to the general public because the fiscal
changes that had been made were complicated and difficult to
That at least was his justification for blowing over €4 million
of taxpayers' money on a television and press campaign to
explain how the government is going to win the battle to
increase purchasing power.
All well and good but critics point out that the media blitz
could also be interpreted as propaganda on behalf of Sarkozy's
ruling Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular
Movement, UMP) party, aware that it had failed to deliver on an
election promise but trying to convince the public otherwise.
The government can also expect to face an uphill battle in its
attempts to convince a largely sceptical public if the latest
opinion polls are to be believed. They show that around 63 per
cent think the government is failing in its job to run the
Mind you both Sarkozy and Fillon can take some comfort from the
fact that the French traditionally seem to believe that their
governments aren't really up to the job of running the economy
A similar poll in 2006 when Dominique de Villepin was prime
minister showed 74 per cent unhappy with the economy, and under
his predecessor Jean-Pierre Raffarin in 2005, the level was at
69 per cent. So on that score at least Sarkozy-Fillon are doing
As a corollary, there's a perhaps a certain irony in the
government using TV commercials to get its message across at
exactly the same time as it's finalising plans for dropping
advertising from all public channels.
Maybe for once, the chairman of the Socialist party, François
Hollande, summed up best what many are thinking he when he said
"quand on n'a rien à dire en politique, on fait sa pub".
Which roughly translates as "When you have nothing to say in
politics, you talk about what you're doing rather than what
you're achieving." – pretty much a definition of "spin".
About The Author: Johnny Summerton is a Paris-based
broadcaster, writer and journalist specializing in politics,
sport and travel. For more on what's making the headlines here
in France, log on to his site at http://www.persiflagefrance.com