French President Emmanuel Macron has been roasted on social media for ordering a custom set of porcelain tableware reportedly worth half a million euros, days after complaining about the “crazy amounts of dough” spent on social security.
The culture ministry allocated some 50,000 euros ($58,000) to pay around 30 artists chosen to submit proposals for the new “Elysee Blue” bone china collection.
French investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaine reported Wednesday that at current list prices — a single, unadorned plate sells for 400 euros — the 1,200 pieces of tableware would cost at least 500,000 euros.
The winner of the contest was French visual artist Evariste Richer, who will design the pieces produced by the prestigious Sevres porcelain factory, a state-owned company founded under the reign of Louis XV to produce royal china.
The presidency on Thursday defended the order, saying a modern table service was needed for large state dinners and other gatherings, which can include up to 300 guests, because the existing collection dated from the 1950s.
It also said the cost of the new collection, to be delivered over three years, would be covered by the annual subsidies to the Sevres factory, which are expected to reach about 4.5 million euros this year.
The order will not lead to increased subsidies, it added.
But the pricey collection comes at an inopportune time, as Macron and his government appear to be preparing voters for benefit cuts.
In a video released by his team on social media this week, Macron — who campaigned on a pledge to cut spending — assails social spending in particularly blunt language.
“Our social policy, look at it: we spend a crazy amount of dough on social security and the people are poor. They’re born poor and they stay poor. Those who become poor, stay poor,” he said.
The comments are not likely to help him shake off the label of “president of the rich”, which has stuck since he pushed through changes to labour laws last year making it easier for firms to dismiss employees.
Using the hashtag #VaisselleGate (DishesGate), hundreds of Twitter users mocked the president’s move, many posting images depicting the first couple as disdainful royalists.
“Macron spends ‘crazy amount of dough’ on new dishes for the Elysee!” tweeted Socialist leader Olivier Faure.