Point-of-view. The former Secretary of State for the Budget explains that before any reform is implemented, the right questions must be asked. And answer them
By Christian Eckert
The issue of pensions is obviously a complex one. I like to say that when things are complicated, you have to be able to go back to simple principles.
The Prime Minister and his zealous troops keep repeating all day long that it is essential to present a responsible and therefore financed project. What “nutcase” could say anything else?
We are changing the rules of a system that concerns nearly 14% of our country’s GDP and that will concern (we hope so…) an important period in the life of all French people. This deserves seriousness and method.
The principle that I personally would have implemented is based on the traditional method of preparing a project, reform or programme: we list the proposals, put them in two columns, ‘expenditure and income’, and make sure, through adjustments, that we achieve a balance.
Mr Delevoye, whom we forget a little quickly, has worked for two years and has forgotten the second stage. In any case, he did not make it public. Edouard Philippe went straight to the third stage by inventing the pivotal age, without any justification or demonstration.
In order to have a real debate and for everyone to be able to choose and decide, we must first go back to the usual method and, for example and without being exhaustive, answer a few basic questions :
– 1 – Open up pension rights for very short working hours, how much does it cost, how much does it pay and with what timetable?
– 2 – Exempt from contributions for salaries above 10,000 Euros per month, how much does it cost, how much does it bring in and with what timetable?
– 3 – Introduce a minimum pension for full careers, how much does it cost, how much does it pay and with what timetable?
– 4 – Replace the “free” quarters allocated for children with additional points, how much does it cost, how much does it pay and with what schedule?
– 5 – Set up a pivot age, how much does it cost, how much does it pay and with which calendar?
– 6 – Align the contributions of all employees, how much does it cost, how much does it bring in and with what calendar?
– 7 – Set up an identical reversion for all, how much does it cost, how much does it pay and with what schedule?
– 8 – Tax all income from 2.3% of contributions that do not give points, how much does it cost, how much does it bring in and with what schedule?
– 9 – Concessions made to special or specific regimes, such as the military, firemen, policemen, customs officers, Opera dancers, air traffic controllers,…, on their regime or on the age of their entry into the (almost) universal regime, how much does it cost, how much does it bring in and with what calendar?
All these points can be discussed and some of them are even undeniably to be supported.
Knowing the intricacies of power and the quality of government services, I know that the answers to these questions exist. Publishing and consolidating them in a balanced picture would have been essential to claim to talk about responsibility and financing… And no doubt to follow up or abandon certain proposals.
Intellectual honesty would also have consisted, on questions of financing, in not forgetting to take into account the existing reserves and the end of CADES, which will leave around 20 billion available every year after 2024.
Independently of the nebula maintained on the global balance, there is still a significant vagueness about the individual consequences of the system’s future rules. Don’t tell me that better tools for individualized simulations could not have been developed after two years of work. Here again, I know the quality of the staff at L’État.
Providing precise answers to these specific questions would be an opportunity for the President and his government to restore nobility and seriousness to our political debates. To do so, we would have to give ourselves time, and adopt another form of political courage. One that does not consist in showing off one’s biscoteaux in order to get through, but in tirelessly seeking consensus through the strength of reciprocal conviction.