in his book Autopsy of the corpse , the journalist Olivier Pérou wonders who killed the French Socialist Party (PS). The author comes to the conclusion that former President François Hollande was the main assassin. But there is no doubt that the mayoress of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, served as gravedigger.
The miserable 1.74% of votes obtained by Hidalgo in the presidential elections last April was the culmination of a chaotic and disastrous campaign. PS has never fallen so low. The mayoress was humiliated in her own city (only 2.17% support). Since then there has been a real ordeal. She has had her political authority to continue in office questioned.
A minister talks about possible accounting fraud, and another does not rule out putting Paris under state protection
The recent increase of more than 50% in the property tax levied on owners has exacerbated criticism of his management. The measure was taken to try to clean up some accounts that are slipping into the abyss. The municipal debt is close to 8,000 million euros, more than double that when Hidalgo became mayor in 2014.
To the attacks of the conservative opposition and media that have always been hostile to it, such as the daily le Figaro, Two ministers very close to President Emmanuel Macron have joined in recent days. The head of Public Accounts and former spokesman for the Executive, Gabriel Attal, described the financial management of the Paris City Council as “calamitous” and accused it of having established a “delusional system” to make up accounting imbalances. Attal came to compare what happens in the capital with the Ponzi scheme, a famous pyramid scheme of fraud in the United States that happened more than a century ago. The Minister of Transport, Clément Beaune, did not rule out that the municipality of Paris be placed under the supervision of the State, as provided for in article 72 of the Constitution in especially serious cases of lack of administrative control.
Hidalgo announced that he would file a lawsuit against Attal for defamation, “for a series of lies that harm the reputation and honor of the city of Paris.” The mayor’s team accuses Attal and Beaune of wanting to undermine it because they both harbor ambitions of becoming mayor in 2026. Be that as it may, the war between Paris and the government is disturbing with a year and a half to go before the Games Olympic Games that the capital will host in the summer of 2024.
In a tacit assumption of blame, Hidalgo’s number two, Emmanuel Grégoire, announced last Wednesday drastic spending cuts for next year’s budget, a savings package to “focus on the essentials” and “reduce the train of life of the central council and of the district councils”.
Flight of the middle classes and families
The municipality of Paris registers a slow but constant loss of population. In 1914, before the First World War, the French capital had close to three million inhabitants. In 1968 there were 2.6 million. Today they do not reach 2.2 and there are projections that predict a decrease below the symbolic threshold of two million in a horizon of between 30 and 40 years. In fact, classes have already had to be canceled in schools due to a lack of students. Less population means less taxes and less revenue for the City. The high cost of housing – ownership and rent – and the lack of flats with sufficient surface area to house families is the main cause of the exodus, especially of couples with children, towards the cities on the periphery. The covid pandemic accelerated this process. The destination is not only the Parisian residential suburbs but also cities further afield and also towns in rural areas. The possibility of teleworking has changed the paradigm. Many find it worthwhile to live abroad, especially if it is enough for them to travel to Paris once or twice a week. Crime and dirt are factors that reduce the attractiveness of Paris, also subject to a very ideological crusade against motorists. Hidalgo has set out to expel the private vehicle from the city and is succeeding, one more reason for outrage for a sector of the citizenry.
Criticism of the municipal government comes from all directions. The opposition leader, the conservative Rachida Dati, warns that “Hidalgo bleeds Parisians with taxes.” The iFrap Foundation, a think tank who analyzes public policies, recently wrote a devastating report in which he denounced bureaucratic hypertrophy (55,000 employees) and low staff productivity. Paris fares very badly compared to other European cities such as London or Rome, both with a much lower ratio of civil servants to the overall population. The iFrap study evaluated the debt and also found the strong discontent of Parisians for the degradation and dirt.
For Jean-Yves Archer, a member of the historical Society for Political Economy (SEP), Hidalgo has become “the princess of debt.” The economist regretted in an interview with this newspaper that Hidalgo refuses to justify her representation expenses. “There are well-managed socialist cities, and then there are Paris and the bleak future of its taxpayers,” said Archer ironically, recalling another of the urban controversies that have opened up in recent years, the invasion of rats. He attributed the municipal inaction to the fact that the environmentalists are partners in Hidalgo’s coalition. “That’s more than five million rats,” Archer said. There is a mayor’s mistake. He wants to please the ecological minority that underestimates the health danger of the rat”.