Covid-19 crisis: how political choices have influenced the French economy

The hour of reckoning has come. After a nightmarish year for the French economy, the 2020 results remain very mixed. All sectors of activity have indeed not suffered in the same way from the health crisis, according to the latest study by the Bureau of Economic Information and Forecasts (Bipe), a strategy consulting firm, which we let’s reveal. Some sectors have even rather succeeded in 2020 – such as agri-food, health, financial activities… – while others have collapsed.

“We understand why, because of their activity, such and such sectors have been more battered by the crisis, such as hotels and restaurants, transport or even non-food businesses,” decrypts Anne-Sophie Alsif, chief economist at Bipe. But at the same time, the political decisions that have been taken in recent months have also influenced things. “

Strict spring containment weighed heavily

Example with the drastic confinement of last spring. In mid-March, France closed almost everything. Industries stop production chains, construction sites are blocked, restaurants lower the curtain. The halt is brutal, much more so than among some of our European neighbors who have opted for less strict measures. “The confinement decreed was one of the most restrictive in Europe,” says the economist. France, for example, was one of the only countries to block construction activities, whose GDP fell by 15% in one year. In Europe, where activity has not stopped, this drop is only 8%. “

Ditto in factories manufacturing transport equipment: the loss of GDP in the sector climbs to 35% over the year. In Germany, the brake is also brutal, especially since the infrastructures are even more dependent on China than at home. But factories, reopened earlier, are catching up better (-32%).

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And if the first confinement weighed particularly heavily on our economy, the political choices made throughout the year – second confinement, curfew, administrative closures … – also had an influence on activity. This is for example the case of the hotel and catering industry (-33%) whose GDP has plummeted due to multiple closures. “In France, but also in Spain and Italy, the decisions of containment or closures were quite similar, analyzes Anne-Sophie Alsif. The impact on the gross domestic product of a given sector is therefore very often the same in the countries of the South. In catering, the loss of added value is 35% in Italy and 36% in Spain. “

Conversely, in the “northern countries” – Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Scandinavian countries… – less severe restrictions on bars and restaurants have limited the economic downturn. As in Germany where the sector’s GDP drop is 15 to 20%. “It should also be noted that in the countries of the North, the place of tourism in the economy is less important than in our country,” she explains. As a result, the consequences for the hotel and catering industry are not as strong. “

Some decisions made it possible to limit the breakage

But the French choices have not always harmed economic sectors. Moreover, government decisions have sometimes even come to the aid of certain activities, such as the automobile for example. “With confinements and the uncertainty of the future, car sales have collapsed by 25% in France,” continues Anne-Sophie Alsif. This is certainly not a good figure, but the premium for the purchase of an ecological car, set up by the government, has made it possible to improve the situation. The proof: in Europe, the fall in automobile sales reached 35% on average. “

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The French also played a major role. As in Italy and Spain, strong household consumption during the summer lull has allowed many sectors to pick up again, such as retail trade for example. Much more than in the countries of the North. “Germany has chosen to lower its VAT to stimulate consumption,” explains Anne-Sophie Alsif. France did not need it. “

The French state has instead taken out its portfolio since last March, not to mention the billions spent, to keep entire sections of the economy under a drip. “These very generous aid had no impact on the wealth created in 2020,” concludes the economist. But they have helped limit bankruptcies and maintain employment. This will probably no longer be the case in 2021. “

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