Friday, September 28, 2012

Hollande stakes credibility on tax-hiking budget

(Reuters) - President Francois Hollande's Socialist government unveiled sharp tax hikes on business and the rich on Friday in a 2013 budget aimed at showing France has the fiscal rigor to remain at the core of the euro zone.

The package will recoup 30 billion euros ($39 billion) for the public purse with a goal of narrowing the deficit to 3.0 percent of national output next year from 4.5 percent this year - France's toughest single belt-tightening in 30 years.

But with record unemployment and a barrage of data pointing to economic stagnation, there are fears the deficit target will slip as France falls short of the modest 0.8 percent economic growth rate on which it is banking for next year.

The budget will also disappoint pro-reform lobbyists by merely freezing France's high public spending rather than daring to attack ministerial budgets as Spain did this week in a bid to avoid the conditions of an international bailout.

"This is a fighting budget to get the country back on the rails," Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said, adding that the 0.8 percent growth target was "realistic and ambitious".

"It is a budget which aims to bring back confidence and to break this spiral of debt that gets bigger and bigger." Read More