French embassy rebuffs UK media swipe at "socialist" economy

by Reuters
Tuesday, 14 January 2014 15:17 GMT

LONDON, Jan 14 (Reuters) - The French embassy in London published a scathing blog rejecting criticism of France's economy from the editor of a British financial newspaper as wrong on various counts, and it took aim in return at Britain's health service.

The unusually frank statement responded to an article published last week by City A.M., a free newspaper distributed around London's financial district, which said the French government was undertaking a "socialist experiment" that had left the country "doomed to decline further".

Ditching its normal diplomatic tone, the embassy issued a stinging riposte entitled "10 accounts on which City A.M. has got it wrong on France".

It condemned assertions by City A.M. Editor Allister Heath that France's public spending was out of control, using what it described as Britain's "ailing" National Health Service as an example of how French policy trumped its British equivalent.

"The French system, by comparison, which is also almost entirely free of charge, came top of 191 countries in the World Health Organization's rankings for overall health care," the blog dated Jan. 9 on the embassy's official website said.

In response to the blog, Heath tweeted in French that he had no regrets: "Je ne regrette absolument rien!" - a play on the late French diva Edith Piaf's most famous song.

The embassy defended France's work ethic, using Eurostat data to show that the average French worker put in more hours per week than their British counterpart.

The blog post also used official statistics to address criticism of France's growth outlook, its tax regime and the country's attractiveness to foreign investors.

The embassy pointed to France's reform of government spending, but insisted that its public services still offered good value for money.

"France has always sought to achieve greater efficiency and will continue to do so in spite of future budget cuts. Clearly, however, when you live in France - from health to infrastructure and from energy costs to transport - you get bang for your euro." (Reporting by William James; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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