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Macron under pressure as French national debt soars: 'He’ll need an economic miracle!'

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French President Emmanuel Macron’s popularity rate fell by four percentage points from February, with only 37 percent people now saying they are satisfied with their leader. Mr Macron has faced criticism for a comparatively slow rollout of the coronavirus vaccine and his overall handling of the pandemic. Paris and other areas in France entered a new lockdown last week, which some say should have been implemented earlier to put the brake on the third wave of infections.

The French President has vowed to postpone new restrictions for as long as possible and called a lockdown a last resort.

The next presidential elections are scheduled for April 2022, and current polls show right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen as Mr Macron’s number one rival.

France also has regional elections coming up in June, although the government has warned they will only happen if the health context allows it.

As support for the President continues to dwindle, unearthed reports suggest things could get significantly worse for Mr Macron.

Across Europe, the coronavirus pandemic forced one of the most intense periods of state intervention seen in decades.

France was one of the countries best prepared to act, given its long history of economic state intervention and the strong ties between the bureaucracy and industry.

However, the country’s national debt is now expected to reach unprecedented levels this year.

According to figures obtained by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as of 2021, French government debt reached an equivalent of 118.6 percent of French GDP.

Economists have warned this number is expected to get worse, reaching 120 percent by the end of the year.

The IMF figures show France’s debt is running behind the UK’s, which stands at 111.5 percent, Germany’s, which stands at 72.2 percent and the Netherlands’, which is currently 61.1 percent of the country’s GDP.

Mr Macron said the additional “Covid debt” would be corralled in a separate account and paid down over the very long term.

However, while financing debt is not a problem for France, the burden and high pre-crisis levels of public spending do narrow Mr Macron’s scope for manoeuvre.

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European affairs journalist Paul Taylor wrote in his piece for POLITICO: “Whatever path he chooses will be the result of difficult economic choices.

“Macron will need an economic miracle, and a lot of luck with the pandemic, to keep his crown, and keep France, out of Le Pen’s hands.”

At the end of November, Budget Minister Olivier Dusspot announced the French government was assembling an expert commission on how to repay the country’s debt.

Around a dozen people “with varying and highly experienced profiles” have reportedly been tasked with charting the post-Covid course for France’s battered public finances.

President Macron said he wanted to avoid new taxes to cover the massive financial aid for businesses hammered by Covid lockdowns and other restrictions since March.

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While that remains the goal, “we want this working group to explore the matter and make its own proposals,” Mr Dussopt added.

In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Ms Le Pen’s special adviser, French MEP Philippe Olivier, explained why he believes his leader is on course to win in 2022.

Mr Olivier accused Mr Macron of plunging France into chaos in these last four years.

He said: “We are living in a major ideological confrontation.

“And this confrontation will be arbitrated during the election.

“The four years of Macron have been characterised by a total loss of control and chaos.

“Both economically speaking but also security speaking… in regards to Islamism and diplomacy.”

Mr Philippe added: “We have the impression the government is only running behind events.

“In France we have an atmosphere, not only of confinement but of abandonment.

“And people are asking to be protected and this is what Marine Le Pen incarnates.”



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