AN INVENTORY of French ministers' assets is to be made public today, exposing a handful of millionaires in the Socialist government, as the nation endures spending cuts and rampant unemployment.
For the first time in France, President Francois Hollande is publishing a list of bank deposits and property held by all 38 ministers as he scrambles to stem public fury over his ex-budget minister's disclosure he lied about a secret Swiss bank account.
While the register will exclude their stakes in companies, it could still reveal enough riches to trigger resentment of the “caviar left” in a country with a cultural distaste of ostentatious wealth.
Topping the list could be foreign minister Laurent Fabius, the oldest and most experienced of Hollande’s ministers, but also the richest, with a fortune estimated in the millions euros, much of it in the form of inherited works of art.
“We’re taking a risk. It’s the risk of transparency,” acknowledged a senior government official, adding: “This country has a very particular relationship with money.”
Whereas public officials in several countries including the US routinely publish their tax returns, politicians’ finances are considered a private matter in France.
The gamble is that rather than calm the scandal over Jerome Cahuzac, the budget minister who quit last month and is now under investigation for tax fraud, it could trigger calls for more heads to roll.