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Speaking at the opening of the summer gathering of Medef, the French bosses' union, Finance and Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has warned that the government's open chequebook policy, launched to help businesses through the Covid crisis, is finished. From now on, applicants for compensation will be judged on a case-by-case basis.
The minister's message to the captains of French industry, gathered at the chic Paris racecourse of Longchamp, was a simple one: the time of limitless government financial aid is over. It is time to look to the future and rebuild the economy in the wake of coronavirus.
Under the government's crisis management scheme, French businesses were given €27 billion in 2020 alone, to enable them to protect the jobs and salaries of hundreds of thousands of workers, and so limit the impact of the epidemic on employment.
Under the parallel solidarity plan, deadlines for the payment of social security charges by employers were extended. The state guaranteed certain commercial loans for companies deprived of income.
A total cost of €155 billion
In total, the effort has cost the French government €155 billion in direct aid.
From now on, says Minister Le Maire, things will be administered differently.
"We will look at those businesses that have clearly suffered a collapse in turnover during the health crisis." the minister explained, "and we will assist those who have lost money because of the emergency health regulations.
"But beyond that, we're a liberal economy. Businesses have to create wealth and jobs, without depending on state handouts."