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Critic with 'Anglo-Saxon CV' joins Hollande's team

Ben McPartland · 11 Jun 2014, 18:10

Published: 11 Jun 2014 18:10 GMT+02:00

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Who is Laurence Boone?

She is a 45-year-old economist, who has built a hugely successful career in the world of finance and who French president François Hollande has just appointed as his chief economic advisor.

Why is that such big news?

Mainly because of Boone’s background. She was a managing director at Barclays Capital France before landing the job as Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s chief economist for Europe, where she was split between London and Paris. She is also on the board of the French luxury group Kering. The fact she comes from the world of business has been jumped on by the French press, who have been happily reminding their readers that Hollande once declared war on the world of finance. Not only that, but Boone herself has been an outspoken critic of Hollande and his efforts since 2012 to rescue the beleaguered French economy.

What’s she been saying about Hollande?

Well Boone used to write regularly for the liberal-minded French economic magazine L’Opinion. In one comment piece titled “Stop the Massacre” she slammed the government for its “total absence of economic policy”. In the piece she went on to say “Without a credible economic strategy, France in three-years’ time will have three million unemployed, three or four percent deficit, a debt equal to 100 percent of its GDP, and university graduates who can't wait to flee abroad.” She has also gone on record to say that the government “lacks credibility” among the financial markets when it comes to implementing reforms.

Boone, 45, has also pressed for closer European integration – including EU-wide budgets, commercial taxes and unemployment insurance – while calling for countries that mismanage their finances to be punished with bankruptcy.

So what’s Hollande playing at?

Well we all know Hollande’s approval ratings have taken a tumble since, well, his first day in office, and he is under immense pressure to rescue a French economy mired in debt, with record unemployment. By plumping for Boone he is hoping he has found someone who can help show him the way and somehow save his floundering presidency. Although it’s worth noting that an opinion poll in May found only 11 percent of voters thought he would make a good candidate for re-election in 2017.

So how have ardent socialists greeted Boone’s appointment?

Story continues below…

It’s fair to say it’s gone down like a lead baguette. Those on the left of the party, who have been calling for Hollande to end austerity and stop pandering to the demands of businesses are naturally the most aggrieved. “She’s worked in several big banks, that’s not a good sign,” said Socialist Party MP Laurent Baumel. “The President seems to want to persist in a policy that meets the agenda of the financial community.” Another said Boone had “all the attributes of a liberal thinker” and another socialist simply said her CV “wasn’t great”. That CV described by one French media outlet, simply as “Anglo-Saxon” also included a stint as an economist at the Paris based global think tank the OECD.

Are they right to be worried?

Not according to one France based economist we spoke to. “This doesn’t signify a change of policy for me. This is just following the same social democratic line Hollande has taken from the beginning,” the economist said. 

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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