Like Jacques Attali, Fadela Amara, the French secretary of State for Housing and Urban Affairs, has been enjoying continuous media coverage and public attention for several weeks. She was one of two Muslim women appointed to ministerial posts after Sarkozy's election last May (the other being Minister of Justice Rachida Dati).
Amara's superior, Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Christine Boutin, has on the other hand been receiving unwelcome negative publicity in recent weeks when she was accused by DAL (Right to Housing) of not providing sufficient housing for the underclass, primarily immigrants. Her response was that she could not do everything at once, but that her promises would be kept in due time.
It was then learned that one of Boutin's key assistants in the ministry, Jean-Paul Bolufer, was living in an elegant apartment in a good neighborhood, but paying 4 to 5 times less than the market value. More specifically, he lived in 190 square meters at 6.30 euros the square meter. When the news leaked out he turned in his resignation.
The scandal was just the fuel the right-to-housing organizations needed to put pressure on the ministry for more housing and more social programs. At the center of these demands is Fadela Amara. She is the founder of the organization Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores nor Slaves), created to help the Muslim women of the ghettoes. Later, she became a Socialist councilor. Last June, though still a Socialist councilor, Nicolas Sarkozy made her a member of the cabinet. Today, the rather disorderly, often Arab-speaking, pugnacious Amara is receiving the lion's share of publicity in her ministry.
What has Fadela Amara promised her brothers and sisters in the ghettoes? We won't know for sure until February 8 when her over-hyped and grandiose project entitled Hope for the Suburbs ("Espoir Banlieues") is unveiled by... Nicolas Sarkozy (!) who must have decided it was safer for him to present the plan than his unreliable secretary of State (who, BTW, lives in VERY affordable housing).
Madame Amara announced, however, that the government is going to pour a billion additional euros into the suburbs “to de-ghettoize 50 pre-selected neighborhoods where problems are on the rise, such as Les Bosquets and Seine-Saint-Denis. Employment, education, de-ghettoization will be the three major axes. The objective is to destroy prejudices and to show that the suburbs are also France.”
I will fight so that from these neighborhoods there emerges tomorrow an elite who will take charge of the destiny of our country. […] We will set up recruiting offices in the neighborhoods with both private and public partners. For the young people without skills, we will offer a comfortable course of study with a support system, training, financing of a driver's license, if necessary. […] In some establishments we are going to create centers of excellence with instruction in solfege, Chinese, or Latin and Greek.
The French nationalists are sceptical. Jacques Vassieux writes at his blog:
The Frenchman is once again going to dig into his pockets to finance endlessly the "lawless zones" which, in the name of affirmative action (implied though not overtly stated), will be accorded privileges denied to most young Frenchmen.
We will follow the trajectory of France's latest boondoggle with keen interest, even though the outcome will probably not be a new elite of Greek-speaking opera singers…