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Other Opinion: France’s painful tryst with Hollande

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No, not that affair.

We don’t know if French President Francois Hollande has been carrying on with the actress Julie Gayet, which is all the talk over there.

We mean Hollande’s affair with the notion that he could revive the French economy by punishing employers and soaking the rich.

That affair appears to be over.

Regrets? We imagine Hollande has a few.

He was elected in 2012 on a promise to protect government social spending and the nation’s workers by punishing businesses that closed plants and taxing the most successful citizens. A member of Hollande’s Cabinet told steelmaker ArcelorMittal that if it didn’t protect jobs, its plant in northern France would be nationalized. Hollande’s persistent push for a 75 per cent tax on incomes above 1 million euros won court approval last month. He made scant efforts to deal with France’s soaring public debt and notoriously uncompetitive business environment.

And what has happened in France? Foreign investment has dried up. Unemployment has hit a 16-year high, more than twice the rate of Germany. Consumer spending and economic growth have stalled.

Hollande’s approval ratings are the worst of any postwar French president.

On Tuesday, Hollande launched a crusade to make his country competitive again. He announced a 30-billion-euro payroll-tax cut for French companies. He pledged to reduce government red tape and labor rules that scare away investors. He promised to cut government social spending by at least 50 billion euros by the end of 2017.

France’s leader might finally be recognizing that the nation’s failure to be competitive with its neighbors starts at the top. He also called on business, though, to increase employment in return for the better operating environment and said he would establish a commission to monitor job creation.

"There is no time to lose," Hollande said Tuesday, 20 months into his disastrous term.

Chalk it up to a bad romance. It was just one of those things.

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