SKETCH: France’s finance minister has an interesting grasp of maths and forecasts.


According to French website financefrance, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde ‘doesn’t care much either way about the concerns of stock markets or bankers’. If this sounds like Gallic eccentricity at its most insouciant, prepare for more from this Top Girl: in the lunchtime editions of newspaper France-Soir today, Sarko’s favourite fiscal brain offers a growth forecast for France that would make Alistair’s Darlings efforts of last year look positively realistic.

“We are sticking to our target of 1.4 percent growth for 2010,” intellectual giant Lagarde told the paper – adding somewhat gratuitously, “and growth of 2.5 percent is an ambitious but plausible forecast for 2011 and 2012″.

Mme Lagarde is not yet at the last-Spin-of-the-coin stage of referring to the target as ‘a challenge’, but all the usual signs of hopeful mendacity are there. French GDP during the first-quarter of 2001 was 0.1%, or roughly 7% of the Government target. But she’s up for the idea that the past is a guide to the future, so “as we made an average of 0.4 percent over the last two quarters, we have to get 0.4 percent over the next two quarters and we will be on target.”

I wonder if she really said that….or it was just a misprint? Is the Finance Minister of a top EU founding nation suggesting we can add up four quarters of moving annual growth to get the growth target…or did she misspeak? Because if she is putting forward this abacus approach to money, then our problems are over. If only Gordon had thought of this one.

Sadly, the rest of the interview provides further evidence that Lagarde may not be clear on the planetary/ground relationship. Pressed on the real likelihood of those past figures being repeated in an EU heading down the economic tube, she ventured, “When the economy suffers sudden sharp drops, that is often followed by equally sharp rises”.

Stripe me pink, but this is mould-breaking stuff. I’ve often found that a cold night is followed by a warm day myself, but I lacked the insight to apply the rule to economic and financial meltdown.

France’s top money-woman signed off with, “But you must understand that forecasts have become very difficult since the start of the EU financial crisis”. Right on the money, Chris. You tell it like it is, girl.