FIGAROVOX/STAND – The inconvenience in Overseas is social, economic, security and identity, especially because of the migratory pressure, explains former minister Hervé Mariton, who advocates structural reforms in these areas.
Hervé Mariton is a former foreign minister and former deputy. He is now LR mayor of Crest and president of the Federation of Overseas Companies.
Overseas had for the most part elected Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round of the presidential election and voted for Marine Le Pen in the second round. It is difficult to demonstrate whether a vote is the expression of a positive preference or simply a rejection of the alternative; the sequence of the two turns illustrates without a doubt that what is at issue is the rejection of the outgoing candidate, a mass protest. The determinants of this protest deserve to be studied, apart from repeated proclamations that do not shed light on the novelty, the particularity of the vote in 2022 in the overseas territories. So the argument of postcolonial mistrust could explain the result of the poll? No. Reunionese society, characterized by the success of its ethnic mix, is not crossed by such distrust and Marine Le Pen, however, also came out on top in the second round.
So what are the causes? There is a malaise, it is heavy. It is social (poverty, unemployment), economic (high cost of living), security (high crime), identity (migration pressure in various areas). This malaise is suffered in societies where the weight of the public sector is dominant, more than in mainland France. The state, communities and public institutions are ubiquitous. But “the state cannot do everything”, does not answer all problems; the disappointment, the malaise worsen.
In fact, life is much more expensive in the overseas territories, which are too dependent on supplies from mainland France.
Some causes have been highlighted. Populations were more resistant to vaccination. But the antivax who voted for Jean-Luc Mélenchon in mainland France voted less for Marine Le Pen. The issue of cost of living is brought up. In fact, life is much more expensive in the overseas territories, which are too dependent on supplies from mainland France. The public sector, sheltered from over-remuneration, is protected, the burden weighs heavily on other consumers. The claim against “dear life” is permanent. So when the theme of purchasing power takes center stage, it resonates all the more abroad. This reinforcement favored Jean-Luc Mélenchon and then Marine Le Pen. And the primed fuse predicts an explosive situation. There is no panacea for the purchasing power question abroad, any more than in mainland France. The state can’t do everything…
An election campaign is carried by the candidates; it is accompanied by relays, parliamentarians, local elected officials. If a few personalities float, the observation is that of a political class suffering from a more serious discredit than in mainland France. There is no longer a net to prevent the protest mood from flooding…
Finally, candidates for the presidential election in 2022 will have paid less attention than ever to the Overseas Territories. The Covid crisis and Ukraine have a good back. The truth is that Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen are the ones who have shown the most interest. It pays.
Institutions may interest elected officials, citizens not.
An evil spirit may want to punish those who did not favor him, at the very least sulk them. The president of the republic, committed to uniting the nation, certainly has a different ambition.
We must act, invent a new policy. No longer from crisis to crisis, whenever violence is nationally in the news, but in an ambition that is shared with local actors but also with the entire rural community. The Overseas are not dancers, mourners who are expensive and also bad-voiced. They are a dimension of France, with challenges to solve, limitations to overcome, opportunities to explore, opportunities to succeed.
A new overseas policy calls for structural reforms. The institutional dimension is not primary. The presidential candidate opened this debate for the most part, he aroused no enthusiasm. Institutions may interest elected officials, citizens not. Emmanuel Macron’s scores prove that this issue is not a priority. It can only be a useful tool to solve other problems.
I am convinced that part of the problem of the overseas territories is security. The crisis in Guadeloupe this fall has demonstrated this. The state must refuse to compromise, make compromises, not weaken. This is his primary mission. Since this basis is assured, the core of the problem is social and economic. The social drama is that of high unemployment, dramatically high for young people (half of the young working people), of a skills shortage, of a civil service in society. The economic drama is that of the high cost of living, the insufficient number and weight of companies and an often inappropriate national framework. The credo of the Federation of Overseas Enterprises is that the future of the Overseas Territories depends on business development. To create prosperity, to develop employment, to get out of social misery and demographic decline. We advocate a programming law in favor of the economic development of the overseas territories. Outside the framework, we believe in a top-down solution to the evil nature of our societies. We want to tackle the challenges of the energy transition directly: our potential for renewable energy is significant. Our skills allow us to be offensive in the digital transition, attractive in our regional watersheds. The challenges of submarine cables are current. The transformation to a local industry 4.0 is an opportunity to adapt production tools to our markets. Biodiversity, the natural wealth of our areas is also an opportunity for the economy, through the rational development of resources, including in tourism. The overseas territories can be a successful example of sustainable development that combines environmental, social and economic objectives.
The State must guarantee compliance with the rules, for example in respect of payment terms. He must know how to adjust and adapt the standards to the specificities of the territories.
This new impetus must be served by appropriate structural reforms. The priorities are investment and improvement of corporate equity, adaptation of training, improvement of infrastructure and communication. The State must guarantee compliance with the rules, for example in respect of payment terms. He must know how to adjust and adapt the standards to the specificities of the territories. The framework must be predictable, cleaned up, adapted. He must be abusive and optimistic.
Bill Clinton said: “it’s the economy, stupid” to emphasize that the economy comes first. Our overseas fellow citizens should not be despised in their voices; they deserve answers. It will be most effective at developing the economy, encouraging businesses and creating jobs. Not everything will be solved, but the spiral of evil will be lifted.
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