Privatisation for foreign “investors”

General background on pension reform in France

by Thierry Meyssan, Damascus

cc. The current large-scale strikes and unrest in France are related to the announced pension reform and to the dissatisfaction of large parts of the population with the government’s work. With the election of the current President Macron, the influence of financial institutions on politics has increased. In this article, the author first describes some of the changes that have taken place in government policy in France over the last 20 years, and then provides interesting information on the background to the pension reform.

The end of politics in France

Ever since president Jacques Chirac’s stroke on 2 September 2005, France has had no political leader capable of assuming the presidency of the Republic in a responsible way.
The end of his second term in office led to a bitter struggle between prime minister Dominique de Villepin and interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy against the background of the state of emergency and of false accusations that have pushed the common good into the background.
Nicolas Sarkozy’s electoral victory allowed the emergence of the “corporate” mentality and thus the end of politics in the original sense of the organisation of the polis. The new president announced that he wanted to run the country like a company. He described his function as “job” and no longer as “public office”. You address yourself to your private life and to social success. So he no longer tried to implement the will of the people, but transformed the country according to his personal will (“I want...”). Ultimately, in accordance with his former connections with the CIA, he aligned France with the USA and placed the French army forces under the US command within NATO.
In response to these excesses, his successor François Hollande poses as a “normal president”, a man without stories, without ambition, neither for himself personally nor for the country. An expert in political disputes, but without political thinking, he learns how to run his office from his senior officials – who know little more than he does – as he later admits. He will be content to follow the path of his predecessor in all areas, and thus will be forced to abandon his socialist convictions. His only initiatives will be to build compliance with a puritanical morality, which he will take over from the American presidents.
Emmanuel Macron wins his election with the help of international speculators. He has very little political experience and has never really been interested in politics.
He loves to assert himself with shocking remarks and outrageous behaviour. He financialises* everything he touches, especially ecology and pensions.
During these fourteen years, the main French politicians have gradually forgotten about serving the nation and only cared about making money personally.
It is particularly symptomatic that in the last presidential elections, none of the main candidates presented a vision for the country, but instead spoke exclusively of their government programmes – as if the presidential office no longer existed. Thus the arguments are limited to outdoing each other politically in the future handling of the various dossiers and to arguing about some figures.
In my book “Sous nos yeux” [Under our Eyes], I have shown how this drifting off, together with a general indifference, has led to the privatisation of foreign policy.1 France is taking part in various wars, for example in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Syria and the Sahel, placing its troops at the service of foreign interests and thus participating in massacres of hundreds of thousands of unknown persons in foreign countries.
These negative developments are proceeding inexorably and are already influencing domestic politics.

Emmanuel Macron and the financialisation of ecology

Emmanuel Macron had announced that he wanted to “make the financial system greener” (sic). The announcement of the US’s imminent withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change gave him an opportunity to do so. Long before this agreement could show its effects, he called out to the American president “Make our planet great again!”
Let us remember the real meaning of this conflict, which had nothing to do with the PR actions on the subject. In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol identified five greenhouse gases. In consequence, an adaptation fund managed by the World Bank and a system of tradable emission rights were created. The aim was, on the one hand to limit the production of these gases and on the other hand to promote the industrialisation of developing countries by enabling them to sell tradable rights to industrialised countries in proportion to their total emissions of these gases. President Bill Clinton – determined not to pay a cent – publicly ratified the bill, while at the same time having it rejected unanimously by the Senate on the quiet. At the same time, he entrusted his Vice President, Al Gore, with the creation of a market for tradable emission rights. The latter had the statutes drafted by the then still unknown lawyer Barack Obama. In view of the future quantities of tradable rights, US financiers will retain their supremacy in the world.2 When Barack Obama became President of the USA, he had this system declared valid by the Paris Agreement in 2015. Incidentally, four of these greenhouse gases have since disappeared, leaving only carbon dioxide (CO2), the presumed impact of which is minimal. This gas, however, if produced by humans, comes from the consumption of coal, gas and oil, the “fossil fuel sources”.  Concentrating on this single gas should open up new markets for the automobile industry in decline to renew itself with electrical energy, without harming the oil industry, for this will find new markets in the plastics industry.
Emmanuel Macron then drafted a new fuel tax, the implementation of which triggered the Yellow Vest movement. Within a few weeks, the French became aware of a phenomenon that they had observed for almost thirty years without reacting: The globalisation of economy and finance is destroying the middle class in Western countries.3 Since President Macron does not want to question the global financial order, he is in trouble.

Emmanuel Macron and the financialisation of pensions

In order to find out who backs Emmanuel Macron, you have to look abroad rather than at France. Certainly the Rothschild bank played a role in his being chosen, but this was not decisive. Henry Kravis, the head of KKR [Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Co], a leading global investment firm, played a much greater role, which may have been decisive.4
He owes his fortune to the development of a technique on the fringes of legality: the takeover of companies through debt [“LBO” = “leveraged buyout”]. He introduced the ambitious young man to the Bilderbergers and chose his current prime minister, Edouard Philippe.
Until now, Henry Kravis was considered a financial shark, and no one on Wall Street considered teaming up with KKR5 … except BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, for whom the 2008 financial crisis was a blessing.
On 25 October 2017, President Emmanuel Macron used the Cabinet Room to host a seminar of the leading speculators, including BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink6. He was accompanied by one of his associates, the former British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Baron George Osborne.
Edouard Philippe (Prime Minister), Muriel Pénicaud (Labour), Bruno Lemaire (Economy and Finance), Elisabeth Borne (Transport) and Benjamin Griveaux (Secretary of State to Bruno Lemaire) gave presentations in this expert committee.
During this meeting, Emmanuel Macron and Bruno Lemaire explained to their interlocutors their plan to financialise the savings of the French: to reform pensions by replacing the solidarity system between the generations with a capitalisation system.
To this end, they had shortly before chosen an elderly politician (70 years old at the time), Jean-Paul Delevoye, and appointed him High Commissioner for Pension Reform. He is a long-standing friend of Jean-François Cirelli, the head of BlackRock in France. They also revealed that they had introduced a discreet section in the “Loi PACTE” [Law on Corporate Growth and Restructuring] that allowed “better access to retirement savings” or in other words, access for the richest to a funded pension.
However, after two years of consultation, voters still do not know what the impact of the pension reform will be. Time and again, a gap is found in certain special arrangements, whereupon there is a call for the system to be unified in the name of social justice; or the extension of life expectancy is deplored and therefore the request for the retirement age to be raised to balance the bill is expressed. In reality, no country in the world has a uniform pension system and, in the face of ‘senior citizen unemployment’, there is no evidence that raising the retirement age will allow savings to be made. All this excitement was only aimed at concealing the government’s real objective: to replace intergenerational solidarity with a capitalisation system. A huge social protest movement has now begun, in which the Yellow Vests are also taking part, and which has already led to a spectacular strike lasting several weeks.
It is precisely at this time that the newspaper “Le Parisien” publishes an astonishing piece of news: contrary to the Constitution, Jean-Paul Delevoye [the High Commissioner for the revision of pensions] had a contractual relationship with IFPASS, the professional training body of the French Insurance Federation, the main beneficiary of the current reform.7 He maintained another relationship with a second training organisation linked to the first. Little by little, it was discovered that the wise older man had fourteen contractual relationships. He allowed eight days to pass before resigning.
Instead of condemning him, President Emmanuel Macron expressed “regret” at his resignation, while Gilles Le Gendre, leader of his party’s parliamentary group in the National Assembly, expressed “respect for his courageous decision”. It seems that the President, the Prime Minister and most of the members of the government were aware of the situation and did not intervene, contrary to their commitment and obligations. Now the public prosecutor has finally been appointed to investigate the case.
This is how one goes from the corruption spreading under François Mitterrand to the privatisation of the state; from the violation of the penal code to the violation of the constitution. It would be foolish to think that this will not have any consequences.    •

*  The term financialisation refers to processes of social change which, due to the increasing importance of the credit and capital markets, also extend to spheres beyond the financial system. Financialisation is not merely a structural development of capitalism, but also a project guided and driven politically, which moreover generates considerable consequences in various national and transnational policy areas. (University of Münster, WSI Mitteilungen 1/2016)

Source: of 24 December 2019

(Translation Current Concerns)

1    Meyssan, Thierry. “Sous nos yeux”. (“Under our eyes”) Demi-Lune 2017
2    Two Meyssan, Thierry. “1997–2010: Die Ökologie der Finanz” (“1997-2010: The Ecology of Finance”), Voltaire Network, 7 December 2015
3    Meyssan, Thierry. “Wie der Westen seine Kinder verschlingt“ (“How the West devours its children”), Voltaire Network, 4 December 2018
4    Meyssan, Thierry. “Wessen Schuldner” ist Emmanuel Macron?” (“Whose debtor is Emmanuel Macron?”) Voltaire Network, 11 December 2018
5    Burroughs, Bryan. “Barbarians at the Gate”. Harper & Row 1990
6    “Comment l’Elysée a déployé le tapis rouge au roi de Wall Street” (“How the Elysée rolled out the red carpet for the king of Wall Street”), Le Canard enchaîné
7    Gaste, Catherine. “L’oubli gênant de Jean-Paul Delevoye”, (“The embarassing oversight of Jean-Paul Delevoye”), “Le Parisien” of 9 December 2019

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