For an Optimism Revolution

Originally published in the French newspaper Les Echos

In France, we often paint a picture of a nation in decline, marked by inequality and pollution. Doom-mongers criticize our country with morbid delight, sowing doubt and resignation. Pessimism seems to have gained the upper hand over optimism.

Yet, pessimism is not enlightened realism but a distorted view of reality. Optimism, on the other hand, is not a denial of problems but an affirmation of our ability to overcome them. Every foreign entrepreneur I speak with sees France as the future European Eldorado. They admire our god-blessed land, our exceptional infrastructure, and our top-tier engineers and mathematicians. They endorse our energy model, which produces low-carbon electricity. They recognize that France has all the assets to be a major player in the upcoming technological revolution.

Acknowledging the challenges our economy faces, a responsible and constructive stance is to see the glass as half full, even though it may sometimes be easier to see it as half empty. Of course, it’s concerning that France still has 3 million unemployed. But intellectual honesty requires acknowledging that unemployment is at its lowest in 14 years, and employment rates have never been higher.

Indeed, youth unemployment is alarming. But let’s look at the miracle happening in apprenticeships: in 5 years, our country has doubled the number of apprentices. These young people will soon have a valuable asset: a profession and skills. They’ll be ready to adapt to the jobs of tomorrow.

Certainly, we must fight against the poverty affecting an increasing number of our citizens. But this should not make us forget that France is already one of the most redistributive countries in the world.

Certainly, the trade deficit is a major concern. Let’s start by rejoicing that France has never had so many exporting companies (their number increased by 10,000 between 2021 and 2022).

We may regret the closure of the Fessenheim nuclear plant. But let’s acknowledge that France has launched the largest nuclear power plant construction program since the Messmer plan. Despite the naysayers of degrowth, France is indeed a great ecological nation, ranking among the best students in the developed world in terms of CO2 emissions.

France has an incredible capacity for resilience. The electric battery sector is a case in point. Just a few years ago, France was a minor player in this field. Today, thanks to sustained political will, it is positioning itself to be a global leader and a net exporter by 2025. This is just one example of our ability to reinvent ourselves and seize future opportunities.

Let’s stop indulging in fear and melancholy. Far from the pessimistic caricature, France has incredible potential to face the future. This is the France we must choose to see: conquering and bold, a beacon for an ambitious Europe. Keep in mind that the economy is also a matter of self-fulfilling prophecy: if we think we are in decline, then we create the conditions for it. However, if we are driven by optimism and a spirit of conquest, then we are preparing the conditions for future prosperity.

What if, for once, we chose to see the glass as half full? What if we ended this self-denigration to embrace our tremendous potential? Let’s all become entrepreneurs of the future of France and Europe.

Rafik Smati

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