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Enough! 'It's time to stop sport of French-bashing'

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Enough! 'It's time to stop sport of French-bashing'
French Minister Fleur Pellerin (right) looks around a showroom of Samsung Electronics in Seoul on March 26, 2013. Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/ AFP
11:05 CEST+02:00
The French must put an end to the culture of self-denigration and French expats need to stop "bashing" their home country, a government minister demanded on Tuesday as she called for a change of mentality to boost the economy.

France needs a change in attitude and to stop being so down on itself, in order to boost the economy and create jobs, the French government minister for small businesses, Fleur Pellerin proclaimed on Tuesday.

A day after President François Hollande announced a raft of proposals aimed at wooing entrepreneurs and small and medium business owners, South Korea-born Pellerin said that as well as these financial measures, it was just as vital for the French to learn to be less hard on themselves.

“The French must stop this self-denigration. It has become a national sport,” Pellerin said in an interview with the daily 20 Minutes newspaper.

“And French bashing by our own citizens living abroad or by the opposition parties has a devastating effect on the image of the country and on its economy.

“I've had enough of this self-flagellation.”

Embattled President François Hollande and his Socialist government have been criticized in the past by those on the right, certain company bosses and even French actors like Gerard Depardieu. They point to his plan to levy a 75 percent tax rate on those earning over €1 million a year as a sign he is anti-business.

France should follow lead of United States

But on Monday the president made stern efforts to woo the world of business.

Speaking to a group of 300 entrepreneurs in Paris, Hollande laid out proposals to attract foreign investment into a country threatened with recession and suffering from dogged unemployment, and to help French firms expand abroad.

He also announced a new "entrepreneur visa" to be created for foreigners seeking to set up an innovative start-up in France if they invest a "sufficient amount" of money.

Pellerin believes France should follow the lead of the United States in doing more for those who want to start a business.

“In France the culture of entrepreneurs is underdeveloped. We need to encourage the younger generations to change their mentality so that each one of them can think ‘Why not me?’," she said.

“In the United States, the universities allow businesses to grow, like Facebook, for example, when it was created. In France we need not only to help students set up their project but also to boost the spirit of entrepreneurship.”

'Those who fail should not be punished'

Pellerin, also criticized the reaction in France towards those businesses that do not succeed and said measures needed to be taken to encourage failed entrepreneurs to have another go.

“In France, failure is inhibiting. There should be a right to rebound.”

“Only 13 percent of entrepreneurs who went bankrupt set up another business, despite the fact 70 percent would like to,” she said. “We must be able to wipe the slate clean after a first failure without being blacklisted.”

With France suffering under the weight of record unemployment rates, little or no growth and massive public debt, Hollande and his ministers have been under immense pressure to do more to kick start the ailing economy.

But Pellerin insists the Socialist government will do what it takes to improve competitiveness.

“We’re here to win the battle for jobs. For this we need dynamic companies that create jobs and can win a share in the international market. The left has understood that for a long time," she said.

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