Debt crisis plunges ordinary French in pessimism

Updated: 2011-12-01 10:48


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PARIS - "It's obvious the current crisis will heavily affect the life of French people, their purchasing power and savings. It's you and me who are going to pay for this crisis which will leave scars everywhere", Guy Rouille, a skipper at a private company told Xinhua referring to the impact of the eurozone debt crisis on his life.

Since the debt crisis got highlighted months ago, a seemingly unending string of setbacks has generally made it hard for French people to paint a rosy picture of their economic status-quo and forced them to forecast a gloomy euro area outlook.

A survey published by pollster Ifop in October showed that only 4 percent of French people believe the crisis was near end while 46 percent of them expressed pessimism over the eurozone situation and estimated a recovery no sooner than 2014.

"This survey highlights the malaise of the French. For them, this is a serious crisis which they do not see the exit and on which policies can not influence", said Frederic Dabi, director of Ifop opinion division.

According to the latest economic outlook by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the eurozone is expecting mild recession in near term with sharply decelerated growth for both France and Germany in 2012.

In France, the Europe's second largest economy, aid package to help bailout debt-ridden states has forced Nicolas Sarkozy government to consider series of austerity plans to garner additional billions which meant further squeeze of public spending and higher taxes.

Already slashing taxloopholes and digging for other tax revenue, French government revised down the country's growth rate to 1 percent in 2012 from an initial forecast of 1.75 percent.

Following a first austerity plan worth 12 billion euros ($16.13 billion), French officials presented a new plan in early November aimed at saving extra 7 billion euros ($9.41 billion) to trim its public deficit and preserve its sovereign rating debt.

"They will achieve their targets at which price?" asked a retired man who refused to be named when asked about his opinion on the austerity measures.

"We should not forget that we were forced to accept the actual Europe without our consent ... Today, these same decision makers require that we assume their commitments financially so I think that the French would be the scapegoat", he added.

Self-employed Clara Bemfort, 30 years old, told Xinhua the depressed mood of the French are mostly based on the disbeliefs of the governments. "...I don't think that the measures proposed by the governments will arrange many things," said Clara, who has set up her own business of door-to-door selling of women's underwear two year ago after unsuccessful job experiences.

"Following this crisis, I suppose clients would tighten the belt due to stagnated revenue or lack of income. Their appetite of shopping would be cut and my business would collapse," she added.

Clara hoped leaders of the eurozone could bridge budget gaps and find common alternatives able to guarantee the bloc's sovereignty credit and in turn save her business.

Financial markets in the 17-member region are still strained with shaky stocks and the weakening euro as the policymakers remained slow to bring out effective action to contain an unprecedented debt crisis.

On Tuesday, eurozone finance ministers agreed to leverage the European Financial Stability Mechanism (EFSF), admitting the eventual possibility of asking the International Monetary Fund for more help. On December 9, the eurozone policymakers will meet again to ponder over adequate measures to stem the debt crisis from spreading and restore confidence of turbulent markets.

"It was clear that the European Union wouldn't work due to many differences in wages, social contributions and tax income between the strongest and poorest members of the union", said a marketing student who gave his name as Laurent.

"Establishing a single currency without restricting fiscal regulations and well assessing the members' economic and financial assets will cost us dearly", the 23-year-old man said forthrightly.

Facing poor growth and high unemployment in Europe, Laurent planned to seek wider opportunities beyond the old continent which "is dying for lack of good policies."

France has so far registered more than 2.81 million of jobseekers in the mainland, according to the French labor ministry's latest figure.

Hopefully, the pessimism is not so overwhelming to shadow all confidence. Guy Rouille said he believed the one-currency block at stake "would be rescued thanks to the help of all the countries," however, "as to the region's outlook, it would be grim and the scar which is left today will take time and efforts to be healed."