Today is April 18, 2022. And we are 6 days away from the second round of the French Presidential elections.
Today is also Easter Monday, and for most of us, we have been indulging in sweetness and chocolate. Children are happy and playing in gardens looking around feverishly for the chocolate eggs that adults and their parents have hidden behind bushes and roses. That playfulness is part of the game, where parents, adults and children commune in a wonderful family and friendly gathering. And if a balmy weather happens to be part of the experience, then all the best. The laughter and happiness bring you to a new plateau of bliss and pure joy.
Yesterday, there was also a wonderful little report in the French news on Television about a chocolate maker in the downtown area of Brussels. As you all know already, Belgian chocolates are the pinnacle of chocolate making in this realm of existence that we live in. So the journalist went on describing this chocolate maker’s artistic craft. And then an important element came up. That chocolate maker had been established back in the early years of the 20th century. Originally, it was a pharmacist delivering medicine by coating the healing potions with chocolate. This is how pharmacists would alter the bitterness and stringent effects of the medicine.
And then it dawned on me that this is how the Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National had been masking the bitterness of its xenophobia all over these years, making it possible now to reach the second round of an election that could bring this party to the center of Europe. All these last few years, experts in communication have lured public opinion making it believe that the poison of xenophobia was indeed the healing potion and sugar coating it with the wonderful flavors of chocolate.
So if you look at Marine Le Pen’s program, you will notice that it has all the sweetness of chocolate that everyone wants, yet very likely to lead to a sugar high that will be very difficult to recover from.
And that sugar high comes from the level of debt that France has accumulated over the years. Of course, the COVID crisis did not help. But if you look at the level of indebtedness of France as a percentage of its GDP, you easily realize that a major crisis is just around the corner. As soon as these elections, presidential and general, are over, France will have to face rising interest rates that have already started quite sharply, both from Central Banks and the bond markets. These never lie and are always unavoidable. France debt stands indeed at 116%, one of the highest in the European Union. France’s debt may not be as high as Italy’s 155.3%, or Greece’s 200.7%, but it’s part of that club that is approaching very fast near the cliff. Portugal at 130%, Spain at 122%, Belgium at 111%, and Cyprus at 110% are also part of a group that will suffer hard from the rise of interest rates that we are all watching on the horizon. Like in the wave scene from the science fiction movie Interstellar, where Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hataway, look at the horizon and realize that what they thought were mountains are actually gigantic waves. Indeed, we have been watching all these years at these mountains of debt thinking that they were static, walking in the shallow waters of low interest rates for all these years, getting a sugar high and luring ourselves into the belief that it could last forever. We took these near zero to negative interest rates for granted. But like in Interstellar, the clock is ticking. And in fact, in that scene, McConaughey reminds Anne Hataway to hurry, because with a 130 gravity, every hour counts like 7 years !!!
So, this is where France is today. Every hour will count like seven years in the 6 days to come, and we’d better think hard with our heart and our mind. No matter how much sugar coating Marine Le Pen can use, the wave will hit and we don’t know how prepared we are. French society appears indeed very divided and fractured. That is at least what these results of the first round are showing us. In fact, that fracture may even have extended to the rest of Europe, without even noticing it. Have we been walking in these shallow waters and taking them for granted for too long? And much more chocolate coating can we take?
Let me know if you have questions and I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Feel free to comment.