[Viewpoint]Inspiration from the French

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[Viewpoint]Inspiration from the French

White is the prevailing color this time of year on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris. About 400 trees line the 2-kilometer, or 1.2-mile, street linking the Triumphal Arch to the Place de la Concorde. They look like white Christmas trees decorated in white ornaments. It looks like the snowflakes are flying above the trees.
The Paris city government noted that it replaced the incandescent lightbulbs with white-light-emitting LEDs to help cut down on the electricity consumption. It looks like an old woman of the streets who disguises her age with skillfully-applied makeup.
The word has been spreading that President Nicolas Sarkozy has fallen in love with the ex-supermodel-singer Carla Bruni. The Elysee Palace, near the Champs-Elysees where Sarkozy lives, is attracting attention due to rumors about this glamorous love affair.
There seems to be plenty of encouragement from the public. The people seem to think that if the president, who lives alone, has found his ideal match, it is a good thing. Most French people think that if he works well during the day, nobody should care about his affairs at night.
As a matter of fact, President Sarkozy has devoted himself to accomplishing his mission during the day. Last week, he invited Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, to Paris and gave him the red-carpet treatment. He was even allowed to stay in a heated Bedouin tent pitched near the Elysee presidential palace during his five-day visit.
After all, Qaddafi had just purchased French products amounting to 10 billion euros ($14 billion) ― including 21 Airbus passenger planes, 14 Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft, 60 helicopters and civilian nuclear reactors.
Sarkozy ignored the criticism over his effort to forge closer ties with the dictator of Libya, who until recently was considered a pariah worldwide for sponsoring terrorism.
Putting a priority on Fran- ce’s national interests, Sarkozy restored diplomatic relations with the United States by promoting economic diplomacy, which leads to actual profits. He won business worth some 20 billion won for France during his visit to China last month.
He is even more enthusiastic about his public duties regarding domestic state affairs.
He has emphasized that France, trapped in a vicious circle of low growth, high costs and high unemployment, should take courageous steps to sever its ties with the past and overhaul the national system, with the goal of building a work-oriented society.
Sarkozy pours all his energy into driving this revolutionary change, aiming to fulfill his goals in the first part of his term of office, while his political capital is high.
Sarkozy’s reform plans focus on reinvigorating France’s international competitiveness through a smaller government, deregulation and increased purchasing power.
Reform of public employee pensions and reductions in the number of public officials are still works in progress. The previous regimes could not conceive the idea of carrying out radical reform in those areas because of the strong opposition by labor unions.
Sarkozy is encouraging more investments and spending from the rich by lowering the wealth and inheritance taxes and reorganizing the tax system.
He is also driving ahead with efforts to raise workers’ real incomes by abolishing all restrictions on trading on Sundays and the 35-hour work week system.
In addition, he unveiled 100 reformation plans. The core policy initiatives call for slashing the number of government offices in half; integrating scattered government organizations; and introducing consumer-oriented administrative services.
Sarkozy is well aware that revolution is not a task that a president can accomplish alone.
A national consensus on the necessity and orientation of such reforms is also a prerequisite. He also knows that qualified individuals in various domains of society should join forces to bring about great changes, drawing on their capabilities and wisdom. In this regard, he is seeking to engage men of ability evenly.
Regardless of the political lines and leftist and conservative ideologies, he radically elevates the best brains to the highest positions of government.
Jacques Attali, a world-renowned scholar, is the best example of this endeavor.
He has been nominated by Sarkozy to head the commission to promote French growth. Although he was a special adviser to leftist President Francois Mitterrand from 1981 to 1991, the conservative Sarkozy encouraged him to devise new measures to fix “weak France.” Rumors are flying that he will join the cabinet as justice minister after he accomplishes his mission.
Among Sarkozy’s 32 minister-level officials and vice ministers, six are leftists and three centrists. His foreign minister is also a leftist.
Unless the faultline between leftists and conservatives in French society is eradicated, he firmly believes that change is impossible.
The 17th Korean presidential election is over. The president cannot work alone in overhauling the country. He should fill government posts with diverse human resources, rather than encouraging his entourage to sweep the board. The first and foremost mission for the new president is to carry out, in an open manner, fair and just appointments of the best brains. People will decide whether they will support him or not based on the results of his appointments.
We are looking forward to the selection of the best persons for high positions. The president-elect should take valuable lessons from Sarkozy on this matter.

*The author is an editorial writer and traveling correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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