The FT reports this morning that France may be about to ease restrictions on certain highly regulated service industries and on business start-ups as part of a package to create jobs in poor suburbs. It is possible that these initiatives might be a test bed for broader economic reform throughout France. French finance minister, Thierry Breton, told the Financial Times:
France had failed its immigrant communities, largely housed in bleak areas of high unemployment where rioters have left one pensioner dead and burned 7,000 cars. â€œWe have put a lot of money into the suburbs over the past 20 years,â€ Mr Breton said. â€œBut obviously it wasnâ€™t enough. We need to work on how to create more jobs and growth in those areas.â€
Among the initiatives being considered is an easing of regulations in the specially designated â€œzones franchesâ€. Currently companies are encouraged to locate in these areas of high unemployment through a limited range of tax breaks. However, the Finance Ministry is considering a form of â€œpositive economic discriminationâ€ that would exempt companies from certain rules in place elsewhere. These include relaxing professional qualifications on businesses such as hair salons and taxi companies, and increasing the level of state guarantees for business loans.