Sarkozy says it’s time to loan money for the country’s future

National Library of France

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has outlined a $51.5 billion “grand loan” France will take out to invest in universities and fields such as renewable energy and the digital economy.

Mr Sarkozy said financing was needed to prepare France’s long-term future but he denied it was a stimulus package, saying the investments it will support “would be necessary even without the crisis…”

In a rare press conference at the Elysée, Mr Sarkozy said: “Today we must prepare our country for the challenges of the future, so that France can fully profit from the recovery, so that it is stronger, more competitive and that it creates more jobs…”

France’s universities are to receive the lion’s share, with $16 billion used to build between five and 10 world-class campuses. A further $11.7 billion will go to France’s research institutes – in particular biotechnology and health care. Mr Sarkozy also pledged $7.3 billion for renewable energy and $6.6 billion to develop France’s digital economy. Budget cuts would match the interest on the extra spending, he insisted.

The authors of the loan say it will boost France’s long-term growth.

France’s opposition parties, Left and Right, are as opportunist as our own. You will wade through rivers of crocodile tears over deficit spending, taxes, priorities – though not as much whining about aid to the young and underprivileged. In that sense, France is less of a class-based nation than the U.S..

The model is nothing new. I’m a bit surprised to see a French conservative advance the proposal. The Gallic breed must not share the shortsighted-gene characteristics of America’s country club set.