The state will provide “the necessary financial means as long as the crisis lasts”, to avoid “a sinking” of the economy linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. This is the strong promise of the Minister of Finance Bruno Le Maire in the Journal du Dimanche this April 5. “I prefer that we go into debt today, avoiding a shipwreck, rather than let whole swathes of our economy be destroyed,” he said. According to the minister, “over eight days, 20 billion euros in loans” guaranteed by the state were “requested by more than 100,000 companies”. To help companies overcome the shock of containment, the state also announced that it would guarantee up to 300 billion euros in bank loans, the equivalent of 15% of French gross domestic product (GDP).
In addition, 5 million employees benefit from partial unemployment and “in three days, 450,000 small businesses have applied for the solidarity fund,” said Bruno Le Maire, adding that these devices “will be replenished as necessary”. The solidarity fund set up by the State provides 1,500 euros maximum compensation for small businesses having suffered at least 50% drop in turnover compared to March and April 2019, plus aid of 2,000 euros granted on a case-by-case basis for those threatened with bankruptcy.
A “recovery plan” after the crisis
“We have no difficulty raising money on the financial markets. Our interest rates remain at reasonable levels,” said the minister, hoping that after the crisis “a stimulus package, to national and European level “allows” to restart the machine as quickly as possible “. As for large companies in difficulty, the minister said he “transmitted to the president and the prime minister a list of around twenty weakened strategic companies and solutions to help them: loan guarantees, capital increase, recapitalization, and, in last resort, nationalization “.
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“These can only be temporary nationalizations,” he continued, while the question of the nationalization of Air France, of which almost the entire fleet is grounded, is regularly raised. He recalled that “none of the big companies that appeal to the State for their cash will have to pay a dividend” and invited the other big companies “to reduce by at least a third the payment of dividends in 2020”.
Asked about reductions in the salaries of bosses and managers, Bruno Le Maire wanted “managers to make an effort” insofar as “private sector employees in partial activity only receive 84% of their net remuneration”. He said he wrote to all companies in which the state has a stake in this regard and received “positive responses from the presidents of Air France (Benjamin Smith, editor's note) and of Safran (Philippe Petitcolin, editor's note)”.
50% drop in consumption last week
Among the sectors hard hit, he cited “aeronautics or tourism”, believing that they will “need special attention and a support plan”, as part of a revival in “close European coordination “. In terms of consumption, Bruno Le Maire highlighted the fall of “50% last week compared to 2019” in bank card payments.