53 Rue de l’Amiral Mouchez
MM. President and Government Chief of Countries
Mrs. & MM. Directors and Secretary General, Managing Director, & President of Organizations
Paris, April 23, 2000
Dear MM. Presidents and Government Chiefs,
Dear Mrs. & MM. Directors and Secretary General, Managing Director, & President,
Referring to my letter of June 23rd, 1999, I take the liberty of writing you again to present you some new remarks on the different subjects that I discussed.
You will find attached some documents concerning the project proposal I presented you, but instead of commenting them, they speak for themselves, I would like to go more in details with the other remarks.
In the letter, I mentioned a steady problem that France has for many years now, the high unemployment level, and its negative effects, poverty and people living, sometimes dying, in the street. I tried in some way to analyze the problem with you. I explained that the problem presented, in France, advantages for many people, and that it was even consistent with some of our political themes, but that, at the same time, it was not coherent with our widely advertised effort to fight poverty and exclusion on the worldwide level.
Based on these remarks, I suggested two basic possible causes for the problem, first what I called a problem of ‘heart’, and second, I mentioned the idea of an ‘intellectual’ problem. I rapidly tried to discard the ‘heart’ problem, and automatically was left with the ‘intellectual’ problem. Many of you have probably thought that the official research paper ordered by the Prime Minister I used, presented precise statistical analysis and data, and that there were some logic to the reasoning, but that in the reality it was not so easy.
In the reality it is very difficult to make the difference between an ‘intellectual’ problem and a problem of ‘conscience’. If many people act ‘stupid or not intelligently’ in a coordinated and logical ‘manner or way’ to achieve an ‘illegal or unmoral’ objective or result, we cannot really talk about an ‘intellectual’ problem anymore. The problem becomes more a problem of ‘conscience’. So, what was/is the real problem? It is an important question for everyone, because ‘we’ are trying to defeat poverty on the worldwide level.
If a rich country, France, creates poverty, how can we expect the very poor countries to avoid it, everything is more difficult when you are poor. Although many reports from International Organizations study in details the problem of poverty, I would like to come back to it briefly and relate it to our problems in France.
If we look at the problem from an arithmetic point of view, we can easily explain the difficulty and our failure over the past 20 years. The statistics tell us that there are about 3 billions people (1/2 of the world population) who live under 2 US$ a day. I believe that we can put all these people in the ‘poor’ category. To this number we must add all the people with higher revenues who do not live a decent life, it represents a very large number too.
Then, although there are exceptions to this rule, we can say that globally being ‘poor’ is still a hereditary ‘property’. The ‘Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers – Operational Issues’, prepared jointly by the staff of the IMF and the World Bank mentions that fact slightly differently when it says, ‘the new approach also recognizes the increasing evidence that entrenched poverty and lack of economics opportunity and asset endowments can themselves be impediments to growth’, and at the same time it says ‘sustained poverty reduction will not be possible without rapid economics growth’, but I think that intuitively we know this is true.
It is also true that ‘being rich’ or ‘living a decent life’ is globally a hereditary ‘property’, but, of course, this is not a problem, au contraire. So if we just look at the population growth, we see that, naturally, the number of poor people increases faster than the number of rich people or people living a ‘decent’ life. Even if we do not take into account all the other factors that create poverty, wars, diseases, unemployment, etc., we can easily say that for the past 20 years and even now, time has been and still is an enemy in the fight against poverty.
‘We’ have made tremendous progress in many domains, techniques, sciences, medicine, even in Africa the life expectancy has risen by 24 years in the past four decade, but we have failed to change this fact, time has remained our worst enemy in the fight against poverty. International Organizations are constantly developing new strategies, and there are no doubts that these new strategies will show some results, but, to make the time become a friend in the fight against poverty, we need more.
If we want to bring the natural increase of people having a decent life to be greater than the natural increase of poor people, we need to show that we have a strong ‘conscience’ and to understand that ‘time’ is a key element in the fight against poverty. If we can achieve this, we will then solve the poverty problem at an ‘exponential’ speed (instead of almost no progress for the past 20 years), because we will also have an increasing number of people who are able to participate in the fight and so on.
Mr. Turner and some other individuals, G7 countries and some other rich countries have perfectly understood these two facts. Mr. Turner made an important donation to the United Nations in 1997 and the leaders of G7 have decided in the Cologne summit 1999 to reduce the debt of very poor countries. ‘They’ showed that ‘they’ have a strong ‘conscience’ by giving an important amount of money, and ‘they’ underlined that ‘time’ is a key element in the fight against poverty by making this important amount, a ‘significant’ amount of money.
Now, these initiatives have intellectual implications both in rich and poor countries. In G8 countries, for example, not every one can be Mr. Turner and give an important part of what he owns to the ‘poors’, but our political leaders must show that they have a strong ‘conscience’ and pay careful attention to the ‘time’ factor. For example, they should not keep the highest positions (and therefore salary) long after they have reached the retirement age, in particular when the younger generations have difficulties finding jobs.
It is a very simple idea that I know you all understand perfectly. Mr. Yeltsin, for example, knew for many years that he had to prepare someone who could eventually replace him. And when you listen to his resignation speech, you know that he understood perfectly what I just mentioned. You probably have read Mr. Camdessus’s letter of resignation, he also knew that he had to pay careful attention to the time factor even though the International Community had demonstrated him a great respect.
And finally, Mr. Clinton is a young President, many years away from the retirement age, but it seems he has never forgotten that one of its most important duty, if not the most important one, was to prepare and present someone to replace him to the American people. And this did not keep him from working on the other problems like economy!
If it is clear that you understand this simple idea, it is also clear that France has exaggerated in this area, like in many other areas, for the past twenty years. And this, despite the fact that we had a high unemployment level and that the ‘people’ have been ‘encouraged’ to retire early to leave their place for the younger generations. Many ‘unknown’ people have gone on retirement voluntarily (or not so voluntarily) at 55, 58 or 60 to give a chance for the younger generations to start or continue their professional life.
But, if we look at the most well known Frenchmen, we see that they paid very little attention to the time factor. In 1986 and 1993, for example, the legislative election changed the majority at the National Assembly, Mr. Mitterand, 70 and 77, had perfect opportunities to think about the ‘new generations’, and to give a chance to a younger candidate to run for office before the normal term (like Mr. Yeltsin did recently, or Mr. Camdessus). Millions of French people were unemployed at that time too.
A leader should not only manage the daily operation, he should plan for the mid and long term, think about the new generations and prepare someone who can eventually take his place, in particular when he is close to the retirement age. One can act ‘stupid’ and pretend that there are no one competent enough to replace him, but that only means that he did not fulfil his most important responsibility, to prepare the new generations.
If you are the leader of a country, the impact of this lack of strong ‘conscience’ is tenfold. We can note exaggerations in many areas in France. I have talked to you about the increasing number of poor and homeless people. But we can also mention the tragic accident of Lady Diana that expresses an excessive lack of ‘conscience’ in the media and press sector sometimes.
The death of Lady Diana in August 1997, as she was ‘chased’, I believe there are no other word, by ‘journalists’ in the street of Paris, is one of these exaggerations. None of these people were punished, I think, but in conscience, ‘they’ must feel ‘they’ have a terrible responsibility. It seems sometimes that ‘our’ press and media who report so ‘precisely’ the problems of the other countries, do it to minimize what we are doing wrong in France, or ‘to close our eyes’ on the people who die in the street of Paris and why they die.
You probably have in mind the billions of francs, not to say billions of dollars, spent by Elf Aquitaine, to corrupt political leaders or politicians around the world and in France. We know that ‘corruption is a core poverty issue’, and International Organizations organize seminar to explain it to various countries in the world or spent money to fight it, and here we have the number one French company, state owned, that gives out its money on corruption, most probably under direct order of the President.
France did not just create poverty at home, it created poverty in many other countries also. For you, leaders of G8 countries, France is a strong partner that plays an important role in the effort to maintain peace and to fight poverty, it showed it again recently at the Cairo summit, but its political leaders must show that they have a strong ‘conscience’ at home too, otherwise we may learn again that France does not just help the world in the ‘day light’, but that it is hurting it in the ‘shadow’ as well.
As I have mentioned in my last letter, I presented the ‘Esculape’ project to Mr. Chirac like I did it for you, and he wrote us an encouraging letter. But I also talked to him about my motivation to work on the project, my trial against the administration and my difficult situation. He paid very little attention to this part, instead he and his political group, and even Mr. Jospin’s ‘friend’ have been more supportive toward the Senator who fired me and who has now been sentenced by several other courts of Justice, even to 18 months steady jail.
It seems everyone is acting ‘stupid’ and pays little attention to the ‘time’ factor, the financial benefits are obvious but the Justice and ‘collective conscience’ are badly hurt. The guilty Senator (RPR) continues to collect his salary, to vote our law and to represent the French people (!), although he should be in jail according to the judges. How can the people trust the Justice, if our politicians and leaders do not even trust the judgement of our judges?
The people who hold the number one, two and five positions in France (all RPR) have long passed the retirement age (68, 72, 78). We understand that France wants to keep its bright men around as long as possible when they are still motivated, but these bright men should not abuse the respect we have for them, and perhaps keep lower profiles (and lower salaries). In particular when they know that younger generations have a very hard time finding jobs. They, unfortunately, also have an important part of responsibility in that fact!
Mr. Jospin, who was not so long ago a disciple of Mr. Mitterand, could understand this, and do something about it but, instead, every time he is asked if he will be candidate in the next presidential election, he forgot to mention that he will reach the retirement age and that we also have to think about the new generations. We talk more and more about the idea of ‘good governance’ to help fight poverty, this is part of it.
You understand that, although I mention the retirement age, the age is not the issue. To show that we have a strong ‘conscience’ and to pay careful attention to the ‘time’ factor are the issues. You certainly remember Mr. John Glenn who went in space at 77 to participate in a scientific experiment. When we know how courageous one needs to be to go in space when one is in his 30s or 40s, this man has given us a tremendous lesson of courage, perhaps in particular to the people of his age who do not have the chance of being as physically fit as he is. Mr. Mandela, 80, is not President of South Africa anymore, but he still continues to help the people of Africa to solve some of their difficult problems.
I would like to mention briefly a story I read in a French newspaper, although we should not believe everything that is written in newspapers. Recently we had the election of the President of the Senate, the second political person in France, I believe. The former President, Mr. Monory, 72, asked his close collaborators to tell him if they thought he was too old to run again. No one said anything, of course, telling someone that he is to old to work is like ‘killing’ him ahead of time, in a way.
He lost the election by one or two votes, I believe, and told his collaborators afterward, ‘you should have told me that I was to old for the job’. Age is not the issue. This man represented something important for France. He had, I believe, no formal education, he quitted school at 15 to work as a mechanic, and he rose to the number two spot in the country because he had unusual intellectual ability, courage and other great human qualities, and he worked hard.
His example demonstrated that France recognized the importance of these virtues. Caring about the new generations (not just ‘our’ ‘own’ children) is also an important virtue. As politicians, you can understand and explain better that I would, why France seems to be the only country among G8 countries not to grasp this simple idea.
I am also writing you to present a new work proposal concerning the project I presented you and your administrations. In December, I forwarded a brief summary of the project proposal and the letters of interest received to about 150 countries. Several other countries have expressed their interest for the project now.
And as you know, one of the critical point to succeed in the development of new computer systems is the involvement and commitment of the top management. Even if the leaders of G8 countries do not represent all the leaders of the world, G8 countries have a strong influence in many areas like science, technology, economy, diplomacy, etc., this influence gives them a great responsibility toward the people of the world. And you understand that the many national and international experts who expressed their interest for the project were also talking to you.
The trend taken by the unemployment level in France since I asked for your help in my last letter is a proof of your influence, I believe. Today I have talked to you about Justice and ‘conscience’, and you also know how important they are for a country. Before I conclude, I would like to talk to you about my work on the project.
It may seems that the proposed idea is so ‘simple’ that someone would have presented it sooner or later, but you may feel that I must have understood the problem well enough 7 years ago to decide to work on it, and that I assumed both my ‘understanding’ (of the problem) and its associated ‘cost’ and paid very careful attention to the ‘time’ factor. I did not ‘act stupid’ and pretend that it was too difficult. Instead, since I was convinced it was important for everyone, I made the necessary effort to present my ideas in a relatively clear form, so that everyone could understand them.
The letters of interest, the comments and the initial proposals are useful working documents to prepare a feasible solution for every one. Because of this preliminary work, we may have the chance of realizing the project one or two years earlier than we could perhaps have otherwise. Knowing the importance of the ‘time’ factor in the fight against poverty, we should not miss this opportunity. In November 23rd 1999, I have asked again several International Organizations for a job to continue my work. The French administration is creating me difficulties with the execution of my judgement, is it the problem?
‘Time’ is important for me too, and the French administration is using it against me. I presented the project proposal to the judges and the letters of interest and support, but they paid very little ‘respect’ for the experts’ point of view. I have asked the help of justice only in case of extreme necessity, the judgment in my favor does not make me guilty of anything.
It seems that the Administrative Court of Appeal of Paris, one of the highest authority in the field, can’t even read a ‘8 lines’ judgement in more than a year. Knowing that the Justice Chief was forced to resign under criminal charges about a month ago, and that a senator sentenced to 18 months of jail and to several other punishments by 5 different courts of justice continues to vote our law, you ‘may’ feel that I am not exaggerating France’s justice and ‘conscience’ problems!
In my last letter I mentioned the trust that Mr. Turner put in International Organizations. Today I described the importance of showing that ‘we’ have a strong ‘conscience’ and of paying careful attention to the ‘time’ factor to fight poverty that you have demonstrated. Mr. Turner has shown ‘rich countries’ the way in these areas. He also assured ‘poor countries’ that individuals too cared about their difficult problems.
You will therefore understand why I copy again my letter to Mr. Turner and why I ask you for the support I did not obtain from France. I remain
Mr. Bill Clinton, President of the United States
Mr. Vladimir Poutine, President of the Russian Federation
Mr. Yoshiro Mori, Prime Minister of Japan
Mr. Gerhard Schröder, German Chancelor
Mr. Massimo D’Alema, Italy
Mr. Tony Blair, Prime Minister of England
Mr. Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister of Canada
Mr. Donald J. Johnston, Secretary-General of OECD
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundland, Director-General, WHO
Mr. Stanley Fischer, Acting Managing Director, Mr. Horst Köhler, IMF
Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General, UNESCO
Mr. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission
Copy: Mr. Ted Turner, Atlanta, USA
Attachments: Articles related to the subjects covered here.
Description of difficulties encountered in my trial against the administration.
Letter of March 27th 2000 and attached document, new work plan proposal.
Summary of results sent so several International Organizations and countries.