THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT has criticised the remarks of the previous administration’s finance minister, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde, after she played down any humanitarian aspect to the Greek financial crisis.
In an interview published yesterday, Lagarde had compared the Greek difficulties to those of the developing world, saying people in Niger required “even more help than the people in Athens”.
The Frenchwoman, who succeeded her compatriot Dominique Strauss-Kahn as head of the IMF last year, also told Greek people they should “help themselves collectively by paying their tax”.
“As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax,” Lagarde told the Guardian.
This afternoon a spokesperson for the government of Francois Hollande – who emerged as the probable Socialist candidate for president only after Strauss-Kahn’s personal affairs ruled him out of the running – took issue with the comments.
“I find them rather simplistic and stereotypical,” spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told French television, according to AFP.
A radical left-wing politician, Jean-Luc Melenchon, also criticised Lagarde’s comments – saying it was “the Orthodox Church that should pay its taxes”. “What gives her the right to speak in this manner to the Greeks?,” he asked on France 3 television.
The French dismissal comes after the Greek public also complained about the marks from the head of an institution which is funding around a third of the country’s two large bailouts.
One cafe owner in Athens told Euronews: “Those two to three thousand people, that have committed suicide – for what are they to blame?”
A pensioner added:
Ms Lagarde needs to come to visit the people, and not the politicians, so she can see whether we are hungry, how often we work and what we have paid the state.
My husband has worked for forty years and paid his dues – he has the right to a decent pension.