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BBC World Service

Why is there record pessimism in France?

Adriene Hill Dec 23, 2011

Adriene Hill: When it comes to worries about the economy, no country is more down than France. A new Gallup-International poll finds the French are as pessimistic about the economy as any country has been since 1978 — when they started the survey. Joining us now from Paris is the BBC’s Hugh Scofield. Good morning, Hugh.

Hugh Schofield: Good morning.

Hill: So the new poll out today shows record pessimism in France. What do you make of that?

Schofield: It doesn’t entirely surprise me. The French are sort of a fairly gloomy lot as a general rule. And as the last 20 years have regressed, their sense of optimism — which was very alive for the famous 30 years, the Trente Glorieuses as they call it, after the Second World War — have gradually dissipated. And now that sense of despondency, that sense of gloom, what they call la morosité, moroseness, is just sort of a national characteristic at the moment. It’s nothing new, so I’m not entirely surprised that they come out top of this poll, or bottom I should say.

Hill: And what are they responding to?

Schofield: I think they are responding to the dawning realization that their model, which they’re so proud of, is running out of steam. That is profoundly destabilizing for people in France.

Hill: We got revised GDP numbers out from France today showing growth of about 0.3 percent in the third quarter. How important is that growth to getting out of the European debt crisis?

Schofield: Clearly, the lower the growth level, the more likely it is that the ratings agencies are going to say well, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t believe your figures for 2012. We’re going to mark you down.’ We’ve already seen two austerity plans so that the government can claw back its budget figures and try to stick in the range that it gave itself. But I mean, there’s almost certainly more of this to come.

Hill: Hugh Schofield is the BBC correspondent in Paris. Thanks so much.

Schofield: Thank you.

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