The budget for 2022 and the limits of “always more spending”

Edrawing up a budget at the end of a five-year term tends to turn into a baroque exercise. Already in 2017, the Court of Auditors pointed out the“Insincerity” of the last finance law of François Hollande’s mandate. Emmanuel Macron also takes some liberties with the budgetary seriousness he claimed when he commissioned this audit on the action of his predecessor.

The draft budget for 2022, presented on Wednesday September 22, innovates by ignoring the real cost of new spending. The nearly 12 billion euros The increase displayed does not include either the commitment income in favor of young people or the first tranche of the investment plan intended to prepare France for 2030. These measures will only be announced in a few weeks. They represent an additional cost of nearly 50% compared to the amount announced.

If this budgetary kitchen annoyed the High Council of Public Finances, which refuses to comment on the realism of the deficit forecasts for 2022, it is above all a sign that at the end of the five-year term the executive is no longer looking at spending. . The context lends itself to this. First of all, a presidential campaign always tends to uninhibit the outgoing majority in terms of balancing public finances. Emmanuel Macron is no exception.

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Then, the presidential “whatever the cost” proclaimed in March 2020 to cushion the shock of the pandemic crisis has troubled people’s minds as regards the real financial leeway of the State. Thanks to the accommodating policies of central banks, public money is flowing, suddenly making possible what it was not before the crisis. Education on the origin of this “magic money” and its limits has been insufficient, thus permanently blurring the benchmarks.

Budget opportunism

Massively supporting the economy that threatened to collapse is not open to dispute. On the other hand, many perennial expenses announced at the end of the pandemic crisis are not directly linked to it. The government’s fiscal opportunism led it to increase recurrent spending by € 54 billion within two years. The pace of progress in Germany has been much slower, widening the gap between the two economies a little further.

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Ségur de la santé, revaluation of teachers’ salaries, aid to the most precarious, Beauvau of security, revitalization of Marseille … taken one by one, these measures meet legitimate needs. But, for lack of counterparts in terms of savings on other items, they are financed by debt. This is currently the case for half of public spending.

Growth, which should slow in 2023 to regain its pre-crisis rate, will not be sufficient to ensure the sustainability of our debt, nor will an increase in taxation. The low interest rates can give the illusion. But resting the country’s sovereignty solely on this hazard is a very risky gamble.

Unfortunately, the presidential campaign hardly promotes awareness. The declared candidates, on the left as well as on the right, engage in an overbidding of promises, as if they felt delivered from the constraints of the European stability pact, which will not be renegotiated until the day after the French election.

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The question of the efficiency of public spending, however raised for years by the Court of Auditors, is however completely obscured. This promises the president who will be elected in April 2022 a disappointing tomorrow.

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