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  1. Wealth
May 9, 2017

It will be good to have a banker in the Élysée Palace

By Alec Marsh

Whatever else you might think about the French president-elect Emmanuel Macron, the fact that he is a banker by profession is great news, writes Alec Marsh

The election of 39-year-old former Rothschild banker Emmanuel Macron to the presidency of France is good news for the world. It’s also good news for France, a country which notwithstanding its structural economic challenges, remains the sixth ­biggest economy in the world.

Known as the ‘Mozart of finance’, Macron as most Spear’s readers will know, was a civil servant and graduated from France’s elite Ecole Nationale d’Administration in 2004 prior to becoming an investment banker in Paris with Rothschild. He then served four years in the profession before making himself a small fortune and a reputation by working on some big deals, and ending up as Francois Hollande’s economy minister in 2014.

Not only is he the youngest French president in history, he’s also the first to be born since the death of Charles de Gaulle, the father of the fifth republic, in 1970.

Rather more importantly for the fates of France’s 66 million citizens and others, he may be the most economically literate leader of France for decades. Hollande was a law student and career politician; his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy was a lawyer. It may also be that with his vaunting self-belief, youth, charm and sheer audacity, that M. Macron might be able to pull off the sort of reforms to French labour rules and the economy that have so far eluded his predecessors.

And Lord knows that France needs his dose of reform: unemployment is still riding high at over 10 per cent and has averaged 9 per cent for nearly two decades. Youth unemployment is running at 24 per cent. The economy is growing at under the Eurozone’s hardly spectacular average of 1.7 per cent. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund has forecast real GDP growth for France in 2017 of 1.4 per cent. And as everyone outside France seems to know, the country’s government spending is surely unsustainable, currently standing at around 56 per cent.

Which is not to crow: it’s in the interests of Britain to have a strong French economy on the other side of the Channel. Notwithstanding M. Macron’s assertions about boosting Paris’s financial position to the detriment of the City, growth in France ought to translate as greater success for UK plc. And you never know, his success might encourage the Left in Britain to embrace bankers more warmly: Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet would benefit from more financial knowledge.

So let’s hope that the president-elect is successful.

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That he believes in a banking union for the Eurozone is surely an acknowledgment of the reality of living with monetary union and may help deliver a more sustainable financial system on the continent. That he wants to reform France’s economy is also to the good. He won’t be the first to try: we can only hope for good reasons that he’s the last to need to.

The irony is, of course, particularly from the perspective of the banker-bashing contingent, is that M. Macron’s election has really only made possible by the seismic political upheavals presaged by the financial crisis of 2007/8 in the first place. That a former banker of all people has been the chief beneficiary of this collapse in mainstream politics is in this respect about as surprising as a property developer seizing the White House. (Their respective age differences from their spouses may be about the only other thing they have in common.)

What we do know is that if M. Macron, as an exemplar of wealth management, can effect a positive change in France then that will be for the standing of bankers, which is to be welcomed. Whatever you think of the causes of the financial crisis of 2008, it is unrealistic to simply blame ‘bankers’ and leave it at that. Likewise if M. Macron can raise the faith in capital and capitalism in France, that will be to the good also. After all, it still remains the worst system available for ordering the affairs of man, except for all the others, and should be nurtured accordingly. And in M. Macron France might just have the man to get the country working again. After all, that is what he’s promised. En marche!

Alec Marsh is Editor at Spear’s

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