Macron and Economists: After 2017 Honeymoon, 2022 Distancing

Emmanuel Macron’s statement about limiting South African activity to a minimum? “Disorder”, Judge, stern, Philippe Aghion, professor at the College de France. He did not hesitate to take out his phone to share his analysis with the head of state. Considered one of the “godfathers” of macronism, the economist, however, was content to speak his mind from outside the reactor. Unlike in 2017, he did not actively participate in the development of the economic program of the tenant of the Elysee Palace.

This close friend of the president is not the only one missing from the organizational chart among economists… In 2017 they were in first place: Jean Pisani-Ferry, former president of France Strategy, who was named the architect of the program, Philippe Martin, former adviser to Emmanuel Macron in Bercy, and now head of the Council for Economic Analysis, or Antoine Bosio, director of the Public Policy Institute and father of universal pension reform, to name but a few. They were all part of an excellent team that wrote notes and advised the candidate day and night so that he could build a “subversive” project that was supposed to free the economy and protect the French. Five years later, the “Macron economists” disappeared from view. Just a few SMS exchanges with the candidate, “easy” consultations with advisers or propaganda teams, but nothing more. First of all, no active role or explicit support.

A sign of divorce? More like the end of the honeymoon. “It’s not about distancing, but about the fact that the context has changed,” analyzes one of them.. At the time, these experts, some of whom had met the president when he was still unknown while working on François Hollande’s program at the Rotunda, were seduced by his project of economic transformation. The young pretender to the Elysee Palace, who did not yet have solid support from the party apparatus, needed their ideas and the stamp of confidence they could bring him. Above all, the debate has continued to focus on the evils that plague the economy. How to increase economic growth, make the country attractive, finally reduce unemployment and put our public finances in order, while protecting the French? Over a five-year period, ties between the president, busy reforming the country, and scientists who were not afraid to point out some of his mistakes, gradually weakened.

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One remained the closest

Of the 2017 team, only the closest remained, Mark Ferracci, who later became an adviser to the Ministry of Labor, then Matignon. While chairing a working group on employment issues, he called on economists, senior civil servants and human resources professionals to come up with a number of proposals, such as France Travail’s. On other economic issues, other groups were tasked with developing proposals. “And the ‘relay’ to ‘go’ to take the pulse of ‘civil society, in particular business leaders’,” explains Jean-Noel Barrault, MP and one of the participants in this project. Laurent Saint-Martin (LREM), general rapporteur on the budget, and Roland Lescure, chairman of the LREM Committee on Economic Affairs of the National Assembly, also entered the proposal box. The proposals were then centralized by the duo of David Amiel, Macron’s former adviser, and Pierre Bouillon, head of LREM’s ideas department, before being passed on to the Élysée Palace, which rejected a number of them. Especially the most politically explosive ones. “It would be difficult to defend them in a short campaign,” explains a close friend of the head of state.

Thus, the economists were not entirely absent, but their role was more diluted, the circle of consultants was wider, and they mostly remained in the shadows, small-scale laborers rather than hyperactive assistants to the captain. Their guarantee is indeed less important today: the positive balance sheet of the outgoing president, especially in relation to unemployment, serves as an asset to him at the economic level. And it doesn’t need to introduce a real change of course either. “The software remains the same, free and secure,” notes Roland Lescure. Most of the key reforms have indeed been initiated – the abolition of the ISF, the labor market reform… – or have been shelved entirely, such as point-based retirement. And truly innovative ideas, such as the big bang on inheritance taxes, were carefully avoided.

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First of all, the economy is no longer at the center of the debate. All that remains is the pressing issue of household purchasing power, which monopolizes everyone’s attention. But the idyll between the economists and the President could still know Act II. “I think some of them will come out of the tree to show their support in the gap between the two towers,” a close friend of the president flashes. There is nothing better than memories.


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