Leconomy is a discipline that is both very close, we practice it as soon as we take out our portfolio, and very distant, when macroeconomic figures collide to paint the portrait of a France that is sometimes conquering, sometimes on the edge of the abyss. To get out of the abstraction of large numbers, you sometimes have to watch the boats go by. In January, in Saint-Nazaire (Loire-Atlantique), we saw leaving the port the Wonder of the Seas, the largest ocean liner in the world. He had brought some balm to the heart of the public accounts in the form of a bill for 1.2 billion euros, which had momentarily boosted a disastrous trade balance: 85 billion deficit in 2021.
It is, with the debt, the great black spot of the French public accounts. France’s trade in goods with the world reflects thirty years of deindustrialization of the country where only a few exceptions survive, such as the shipyards of Saint-Nazaire. But this is not a good reflection of the French economy, if only because it only concerns industry, which represents only about fifteen percent of the French economy.
To understand the rest, that is to say essentially the immense nebula of services, from tourism to supermarkets, via construction, banking or IT services, we must turn to the balance of payments. This one, less used in political speeches, calculates all the flows of money entering and leaving France, and in particular those coming from service activities.
Find the right balance
And, miraculously, this, unlike the trade balance, was in surplus by nearly 9 billion euros in 2021, against a deficit of more than 41 billion in 2020. This is only the second time in fifteen years that this figure is in the green. This performance demonstrates that the service activity, which has been recovering very strongly since the dark year of confinement, is a powerful driver of the French economy. But there is a bias that must force us to be modest. If the situation improves so dramatically, it owes it, once again, to boats. These are as gigantic as the Wonder of the Seasbut containers have replaced tourists.
France is home, with CMA CGM, to one of the largest shipping companies in the world. However, the global logistical mess has caused the price of freight to soar. On the verge of bankruptcy in 2009, the family group led by Rodolphe Saadé, the son of the founder, made 18 billion euros in profit in 2021. The biggest profit in France. A performance that inflated the accounts of the nation.
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