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3 Mar, 2009 04:26

Sarkozy spends lavishly in time of need

While the world economy contracts and people tighten their belts, one thing is certainly expanding – the budget for the French president's residence.

French style and elegance – with a racy past – is home to the mistresses of kings and emperors. The Elysee palace exudes a grandiose and opulent atmosphere fit for the president of the 5th republic to welcome the great and the mighty from across the globe.

But its good looks don't come cheap.

A closely guarded secret until now – the real cost of its upkeep has been revealed, after some digging by a French Minister.

Funds for the Elysee palace are more than three times the size of what ministers voted for, at one hundred million Euros annually.

“I have noticed that the budget is in reality very different from official documents, and that the ministries, like Defence, Internal affaires, Foreign affaires, and culture – took part in financing the Elysee. I have established that the real budget is around 100 million euros. The parliament voted for only 30 million euros,” said Parliament deputy Rene Dosiere.

But that's not enough – Nicolas Sarkozy wants 10 per cent more cash for the Elysee's fixtures and fittings.

But is a budget increase for the president's residence really necessary? After all, the nation is in the grips of an economic crisis. As some are saying, it is more a question of the president being out of touch with reality.

“I think they’d be better to think about small enterprises. People are losing their jobs. Small companies are being closed. It would be better to give this extra cash to those small enterprises,” said one passerby.

“I think Sarkozy is a bad president, and that it is a bad choice,” added another.

The nation faces its deepest recession since 1975, nationwide strikes over pay are on the horizon once again and over two million, and rising, are unemployed.

Even those close to the president and his wife question the wisdom of the decision.

“Every month we have nine thousand more unemployed people, the anger is strong, and this was not necessary,” said Marek Halter, a writer and president of French College in Moscow.

Nicolas Sarkozy intends to rein in spending gradually  – and be more transparent on where money is spent.

One thing they will be economising on is wine – the French president doesn't drink alcohol – and possibly neither will visiting heads of state when they come to stay at the Elysee.