Zone franche in France for Monaco? Minister of State expounds expansion theories at Press Club meeting

What do you do when a country’s economy is growing at 5 to 10 per cent a year, but you have barely two square kilometers of surface area in which to accommodate this expansion? Answer: talk to the neighbors. In a wide ranging, informal talk for the Monaco Press Club on Tuesday morning, chaired by President Bernard Spindler, a relaxed Minister of State Jean-Paul Proust, discussed his ideas on how Monaco can go forward into the future. The relationship between France and Monaco, particularly which of the Sovereign Prince Albert II and soon-to-be-outgoing French President Jacques Chirac, is, he said, very good. The idea then that France – or rather the neighboring Alpes-Maritimes department - might allow Monaco to create a “zone franche” in an area near Nice makes perfect sense. By virtue of the fact that they are sited in districts deemed to be at a disadvantage economically, “zones franches” attract dispensations such as lower taxes, exemption from social charges and so on, in return for the jobs that are created. Mr. Proust also said that to ensure all available space in Monaco was being used to its full potential, the state needs to intervene – in the same way it has to create more housing for Monégasque nationals. ‘We are going to try and create more square meters of office space in future projects – for example having offices on the first two or three floors of new residential buildings,’ he said. He confirmed that the Prince’s vision is for Monaco to have an impact on world affairs, hence his involvement in environmental issues and the many charitable groups that are here, all benefiting from Monaco’s wealth. He concluded: “Monaco must continue to develop its prosperity. The economy is like a plane. If it stops, it falls. Globalization doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of identity. Yes – the Principality wants to open up to the world but stay faithful to its traditions and values.”

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