France’s inflation rate should lower in 2023 and until price rises slow down the government will continue to act to prevent market speculation, its official spokesperson has said.
Olivier Véran made the statement while answering questions on topics including employment, pensions, housing and transports, as well as the energy crisis from Franceinfo radio listeners.
One listener observed that it would not be possible for the government to maintain measures such as the bouclier tarifaire on energy prices indefinitely and asked when ministers believed they would be able to remove these mechanisms.
“What we want to avoid is speculation over a long period about the energy market,” Mr Véran responded.
“We are protecting people in France over a period; we are making them contribute from January with a contained increase [in energy prices].
“We are acting to break that spiral of speculation” which causes prices to rise.
“According to Bercy [where the finance ministry is situated], 2023 could be the year in which we see prices come down.”
The French inflation rate was 5.8% over a year in August, and is expected to settle at 4.2% over a year in 2023, more than the 3.2% previously forecast. The economy is also set to grow by 1%, less than the 1.4% predicted previously.
Mr Véran also said that France’s GDP grew by 0.5% in the second quarter of 2022, and that “the predictions that we are making for 2023 still show growth.”
Individual vs industrial energy consumption
Members of the public also questioned Mr Véran on government recommendations asking individuals to reduce their energy consumption, contrasting them with the comparatively huge usage of private jet owners, for example.
“Is cutting off the WiFi more effective than regulations on private jets?” one person asked.
Mr Véran replied: “On a macro level, I would not know the answer. With WiFi, home devices remaining plugged in without being used cost us a lot of energy. If we get into the habit of [switching them off], it will push bills down. I would not compare one measure to another.”
Another person said: “For several weeks, they have been asking us as individuals to make efforts to [reduce] energy consumption. I work in the pharmaceutical industry, and day and night the air conditioning is on full blast in the offices, whether it’s 30C outside or 10C.
“Are there checks on company usage?”
Mr Véran responded: “Yes. The prime minister has demanded that each firm presents its energy use reduction plan. We can regulate, like by banning lit-up signs and forbidding shops from using heating or air conditioning when the doors are open.
“Raising awareness among employees is as important at least as state regulation.
“The cost of energy is also rising for the government, obviously, and we must also make efforts.
“In my office, which is in an old building, at the moment that I am speaking to you, it is 17C and we will not turn on the heating just yet.”
Alternative energy sources
One listener asked why the government is not focusing on promoting the installation of solar panels on private homes.
Mr Véran said: “Our objective is to multiply the energy produced by solar by 10, and to build 50 huge wind farms in the sea. The power released by these massive structures is more profitable and [therefore] interesting [to us].”
When another person said that many public buildings use old-fashioned, inefficient heating and lighting systems, he said: “All public buildings are involved in energy renovation projects.
“For example, the €1.5billion green plan will most notably enable us to renovate schools, mairies and other buildings.”
In terms of energy sources other than electricity and gas – whose prices are also rising – Mr Véran added that the government is preparing to offer support.
“Heating oil and wood pellets, it’s the same fight: the government is aware of the cost of these sources of energy for people in France and will act in the coming weeks,” he said.
“Measures are being developed to support people in France facing these difficulties.”
Aids to help everybody
A listener asked: “Why is the support always targeted on the same people and never on middle-class people who pay their taxes and fill the state coffers?”
Mr Véran replied: “We are increasing the number of people in France who benefit from these aids. This is notably the case with the prime exceptionnelle de rentrée. The bouclier tarifaire is for everyone, as is the fuel discount.
“Most of our financial efforts cover the middle classes.”
Another person pointed out that people living in copropriétés are not generally eligible for the bouclier tarifaire, and are seeing electricity bills which have risen five or even tenfold. “All this because copropriétés are considered to be businesses. It is absurd.”
In response, Mr Véran said: “For social housing tenants, we have put a bouclier tarifaire in place.
“For certain copropriétés and social housing which are not under the regulated tariff, the government will be offering a response in concrete terms in the next few days.”