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French sceptical as Hollande points to economic recovery


François Hollande’s claim in an interview on Sunday that France is on the verge of economic recovery has been met with a heavy dose of scepticism from the country’s press and the President's political rivals.


For a country that has just officially entered into a triple-dip recession, it was a claim that was always going to raise a few eyebrows. During an interview with French television on Sunday - the French national holiday of Bastille Day - President François Hollande announced to the country that, finally, “The economic recovery is here”.

As proof, he pointed to an increase in industrial production as well as a small uptick in consumption in recent months.

However, weighed against negative growth in the first quarter of the year and record high numbers of unemployed - 3.26 million at last count - the President’s remarks have been met with a mixture of scepticism and even ridicule from his political rivals and in the French press.

During his interview, Hollande talked about combating his nation's apparent love of pessimism with a message of hope and optimism. But it seems that the general feeling in France is that the President is simply in denial.

‘Totally against intuition’

French daily Le Figaro suggested Hollande has chosen to adopt the ‘Coué method’ - a self-improvement technique named after French psychologist Emile Coué and based on the belief that constant repetition of optimistic thoughts can lead to tangible benefits.

“In reassuring us that the ‘recovery is here’, the head of state wants to convince us that the French economy is doing better,” said the newspaper’s Jacques-Olivier Martin.

“However, business leaders, economists, and generally all the French are struggling to believe.”

Le Monde also took issue with Hollande’s seemingly unwarranted optimism, describing his approach as “risky” and “totally against intuition”.

“Such a surge of optimism goes against what the French people experience in their lives on a daily basis,” said the newspaper. “It can only confirm their suspicions in regards to the President … that someone is not telling the truth.”

Hollande ‘denying economic reality’

The President’s political rivals have also been quick to pile on the scorn, seeking to do further damage to Hollande’s approval ratings, already at record lows.

Valérie Debord, a member of the right-wing UMP party, accused the President of “denying both the economic and social reality of France” by proclaiming the arrival of the economic recovery.

The far-left Parti de Gauche, meanwhile, said that Hollande must have been “blinded by the Parisian sun” when he made his Bastille Day remarks.

However, while few in the country seem to be in agreement with Hollande, there is, at least some acknowledgement that though a recovery is still far away, there are some signs of improvement, with France’s economy forecast to return to modest growth in the second quarter of the year.

“What the President says is true, the economic indicators are getting better," conceded Le Monde in another editorial on the subject on Tuesday.  But it added: "But it's a bet, because the French economy is far from saved."

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