Coronavirus: Bruno Le Maire declares a state of economic emergency

Guarantee by the BPI of cash loans for SMEs, spreading out the payment of taxes and contributions… Bercy is pulling out the heavy guns to help companies in difficulty. For the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, “this is not the time to count too much on the resources made available”.

For the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire,

The risk is not to do too much but not to do enough. It’s a bit of Bercy’s maxim at the moment. To support the economy in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, “We must not spare our efforts. We must put the package “, said Tuesday, the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire. Anxious to show that the government is active and that it has taken the measure of the economic emergency, the tenant of Bercy has met with professional federations, especially those which represent sectors in difficulty, such as the hotel industry which has lost 20% of its turnover in recent weeks.

Ensure corporate cash flow

Several measures have already been taken and new ones were announced on Tuesday. First, to reduce the pressure on corporate treasuries, the payment of taxes and social contributions will be staggered. For the same purpose, SMEs that encounter problems obtaining a cash loan from their bank can ask BPI France to guarantee 70% of the amount. The Credit Mediator will also be involved in this matter. “Our responsibility is to allow companies to pass the course under the best possible conditions”, insisted the Minister of the Economy.

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Then, the coronavirus constituting a case of force majeure, the State will not apply penalties to companies that are late on public worksites. The minister has also asked local communities, major contractors and commercial lessors to do the same. Finally, recourse to short-time working will be made easier for companies which request it. Conversely, those who will need to work overtime for their employees to produce more, will be able to obtain “Derogations” current ceilings, said Bruno Le Maire.

DGCCRF survey

At the same time, in a more anecdotal but symbolic way, Bruno Le Maire pointed out the price increases on the bottles of hydroalcoholic gels. He judged “Unacceptable and revolting that there is speculation about the coronavirus”. The Directorate for Competition and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) is investigating. And the minister is ready to draw a decree to regulate the price of these products.

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“For the moment, except in a few sectors, French companies are not affected”, however, tempers a senior Bercy official. In fact, the ministry refuses to give the slightest precise figure on the impact that the coronavirus epidemic could have on growth in France. Uncertainty on this point is complete. This is also why the Germans seem less inclined to react quickly and strongly.

Bruno Le Maire met his German counterpart, Olaf Scholz on Monday, who did not seem as worried as him, nor as ready to use the budgetary weapon to face the crisis. This prompted Bruno Le Maire to declare that European actors should “Show solidarity”. “Fiscal policy measures are necessary in a world where the room for maneuver of monetary policy is reduced”, according to him. “This is not the time to count too much on the means made available”, even added the minister. But it is not certain that in Berlin, we think the same thing.

For Agnès Benassy-Quéré, professor at the Paris School of Economics, “The European Union could also coordinate efforts in the medical field. The countries of the North, less affected by the coronavirus today, could redeploy capacities or doctors in Italy, at least temporarily ”. For her, “This crisis is an important test for the value of EU membership. Is the EU just a single market or is it the bearer of real solidarity in the event of hard times? “, asks the economist.