Vaiju Naravane

Sarkozy recruits Amartya Sen, Stiglitz to redefine growth

Paris: In a far-ranging press conference attended by over 600 journalists, French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday defended his seven months in office and called for urgent reform of the United Nations Security Council that would make India, Brazil, Japan, Germany and “a major African nation” new permanent members.

He also called for an enlargement of the G-8 to include emerging countries such as India, China, Brazil or South Africa saying, “We have a 20th century organisation for the 21st century. It can’t work”.

Describing his vision as one of “the politics of civilisation” which would place the human being at the centre of concern, Mr Sarkozy stressed the need to “re-humanise society”. About his much-talked-about relationship with former Italian super model-turned-pop star Carla Bruni, Mr Sarkozy declared “it is serious,” confirming rumours that the two will be marrying shortly. But he refused to give a date saying, “by the time you get to hear of it, it will be a done thing”.

Mr Sarkozy also announced he had appointed two Nobel Prize-winning economists, India’s Amartya Sen and American Joseph Stiglitz to redefine economic growth. “We must change the way we measure growth,” the President argued, saying that thought had to be given to the way gross national product was calculated to take account of the quality of life. New indices would improve the impression of growth performance among French people “who can no longer accept the growing gap between statistics that show continuing progress [in growth] and the increasing difficulties they experience in their daily lives”.

On the sensitive question of immigration, Mr Sarkozy, who has fixed yearly expulsion targets for illegal immigrants, said France would adapt a clear policy of immigration quotas and called for such a policy at the European level.

Commenting on the reforms he has tried to push through in France, Mr Sarkozy aid he hoped 2008 would spell the end of France’s 35-hour working week.

“The fact of the matter is, we do not work hard enough,” he said, commenting on the economic difficulties faced by the country. He also talked of the need for greater “protection” for Europe, hinting he would like to see European companies or citizens given preference over foreign ones.