France faces down socialism

France’s socialist government has forced through controversial economic reforms.

France's socialist government has finally shown it means business when it comes to raising the economy's long-term growth potential.

Fearing a defeat at the hands of rebellious socialists and opportunistic centre-right MPs in the lower house of parliament, it has rammed a reform package through by using a rarely invoked constitutional clause that allows an administration to send a bill straight to the senate.

Talk about an uphill struggle, says The Times. "Wars have been launched with less discussion." Yet in truth, the new measures are pretty modest.

The law extends the number of Sundays that shops may stay open from five to 12 per year; allows intercity coaches to compete with railways; lifts barriers to becoming a notary (a highly protected field); and speeds up labour-tribunal hearings.

The package is a start, reckons Pierre Gattaz, head of MEDEF, the employers' association, but to give France's stagnating economy a jolt, "we need five to ten such reforms". Bolder labour-market changes would be particularly helpful, says Capital Economics.

But the clause the government used can only be invoked once a year, and opposition to change is strong. This is a step in the right direction, but more pervasive change will take some time.

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