Has the high cost of living in our territories become a government priority? Gérald Darmanin, number 3 in the government, clearly declared, at the forum organized in Paris on Thursday February 1, 2024, organized by the weekly Le Point, that monopolies create frustration and fuel demands for autonomy or independence. The business lobby does not share this analysis.
Monopolies directly contribute to the high cost of daily life in our territories, according to the Minister of the Interior and Overseas Territories. Gérald Darmanin wants to limit their influence. Its objective is “to break monopolies, to shake up interests (…often very powerful) and to restore the freest competition possible within the overseas territories”.
It took some decision-makers by surprise during the third edition of the forum “Overseas at the forefront”, organized by Le Point in Paris. Gérald Darmanin wanted to be clear: “I am not a revolutionary socialist, but I can nevertheless see that there are unbearable capitalist monopolies. Some families, whether from outside the territories, or from within the territory, who organize non-competition. We cannot accept the monopoly of distribution, of production (…)“.
He cites examples:What is happening in Martinique regarding cane and bananas is not acceptable. This is also the case in Guadeloupe and Reunion Island.. The minister thinks that the monopolization of wealth by a small minority generates social frustration and political radicalism: “IIt should not be surprising that there are territories which have associations which want independence if the Republic is not capable of putting an end to money monopolies“.
These declarations echo the fifteenth anniversary of the social crises which shook Guyana, Martinique and Guadeloupe between November 2008 and March 2009. The denunciation of the high cost of living was at the heart of the popular mobilizations.
Gérald Darmanin also gives resonance to the attempt of the socialist government of François Hollande to overturn the table. The then overseas minister, Victorien Lurel, was unable to enforce the 2013 law passed on his initiative on the end of monopolies and oligopolies. The minister also validates, without saying so, the conclusions of the parliamentary commission of inquiry into the cost of living overseas, whose rapporteur was the MP for Martinique Johnny Hajjar.
These comments from number 3 in the government provoked the exasperation of one of the most influential pressure groups in economic circles. FEDOM (Federation of Overseas Companies) regrets this “anathema on economic operators”.
The Minister “underestimates the role and work of the competition authority on the issue of monopolies », she writes in her latest newsletter. Price differences can also be explained by “inaction of central or local public authorities“.
FEDOM deplores these statements “which obscure the complexity of situations”. She says she is waiting, for example, for a development orientation or programming law. This initiative could “restore coherence between State action in the territories (…), the trajectories and territorial strategies defined by local authorities (…)) and the needs of economic actors.
Despite everything, senior state leaders recognize that the high cost of living creates persistent instability that hinders the growth of economic activity, the release of productive forces, commercial competition and technological innovation. As a result, the modernization of overseas regions is compromised by archaic practices that the government considers unjustifiable.