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A Small Town Where Big Franc Rules

Le Blanc · Where the French Franc is Still King
In the central French town of Le Blanc shopkeepers are happy to take French Franc banknotes for anything they sell · and they do a roaring trade. What might they know that we don't?

Indeed shopkeepers in this town of 7000 souls in the Indre département gleefully rake in French Franc banknotes for anything they sell · and they do a roaring trade. For with euro-strain on the gain and the 11-year old eurozone under intense speculative attack and looking vulnerable, some think they may be in the vanguard.

Pointing to a poster in a local trader·s window ·Pay here in francs· Sylvie Auteau-Moënne-Loccoz chairman of the local traders· assocation says: ·When I first broached the idea, three years ago, people thought I was bonkers. Ten traders agreed initially but today 39 out of 80 participate, the scheme is a success·.

The francs they accept are collected by the association and exchanged at the Banque de France in Limoges with traders reimbursed in euros. ·Franc banknotes can be redeemed until February 17, 2012. The town hopes to have collected 2 million francs (or 300,000 euros) by then·, she says.

But if the euro were to fail, Le Blanc·s shopkeepers may yet come to be regarded as prudent beyond their wildest imagination.

Profligate Greece
Euro-fans and Euro-sceptics are out in force and currency speculators, driven on by successful bets against a profligate Greece, are having a field day. The EU·s politicians dither while the man in the street fears for his savings, his family·s wealth and well-being, his pension and his children·s future.

Jaques Attali
"We're all ruined"

Reports in the European media demand strong political leadership to end the crisis in the world·s largest economy · the EU accounts for 22% of global economic activity · while all acknowledge the tensions affecting the eurozone were well-charted when euro was first introduced. Indeed economists like Jacques Attali, a one-time adviser to the French president, said at the time the euro would only work if economic union and political union became one happily married couple.

Now in a recent TV interview, Attali, who once headed up the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), said in its current framework the euro had every chance of disappearing. His latest book Tous ruinés dans dix ans?, (All of us ruined within the decade?) suggests that to survive, the euro needs a new architecture namely a European Finance Minister controlling a European budget for a Federal government of Europe. Needless to say his views are not warmly embraced in certain European chancelleries.

Economy Totters
However as the global economy totters towards what some fear will be another and more severe collapse of international banks, there is a consensus that all affected nations must cut public spending and raise taxes.

Talking Tough
As one commentator noted recently: ·First came Greece, with its clampdown on outrageously generous public-sector pay and conditions. Then came Spain, as its construction-led economy ground to a halt. Portugal was bound to follow and fellow · ·Club Med· economy Italy came soon after. But then Britain, France and even Germany started talking tough on deficit reductions. America views all this with concern, fearing Europe, one of its main trading zones, is talking itself into an economic slide.

Story: Ken Pottinger

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