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Hollande promises two years of pain

President says households, businesses and the government would share the load of €30billion of tax and spending cuts

HOUSEHOLDS, businesses and government departments face a tough two years ahead as President Hollande announced a "recovery agenda" that would see €30 billion of taxes and spending cuts.

Being interviewed on TF1 news he said his government was in "battle mode" to get France back on track and he had two targets: the national debt and unemployment.

He said the debt would be reduced through a €10bn cut in public spending next year with every ministry apart from education, security and justice ministries being hit; €10bn from "large companies" through increased taxes and social charges, and €10bn from the ordinary taxpayer, and "especially the better off households".

With unemployment at a 13-year high, he said he was "setting a calendar" of "two years to create a policy for work and competitiveness" and added that the "graph will be reversed within a year".

He looked to the so-called "generation contract," a state-subsidised bid to get companies to hire young workers, as a way to help the one in four young people out of work and create 150,000 jobs. The government will also employ 60,000 more in schools.

It has already started work on a total rethink on employment contracts and he said that if unions and businesses could not agree on changes then the government would intervene.

But he admitted that the government was fighting against the background of growth figures significantly less than hoped: he said it was likely to be 0.8% in 2013 and, for this year, "at best, just above zero". Each 0.1% reduction in growth means one billion euros that the government has to find from elsewhere.

Promising that the government would not "spend a single euro more" in 2013 than in 2012, he said that the swingeing cuts in spending plus the tax rises would put France "back on its feet".

Asked by TF1 news presenter Claire Chazal about the announcement from France's richest man Bernard Arnault, head of the luxury group LMVH, that he was seeking joint French-Belgian nationality, Hollande said: "He should have taken into account what it means to be French. We have to call on patriotism at this time… to ask for an effort in the battle against debt."

Hollande said income tax bands would remain frozen for the better-paid, with no allowance for inflation for those earning mroe than €11,896 of taxable income a year.

His much-touted 75% tax band for those earning more than €1m a year, he said, would have "no exceptions" but could be ended after two years once the economy improved. His statement came despite reports in some newspapers last week that high-earning artists, pop stars and footballers would be exempt.

Reacting to tumbling opinion poll ratings on his progress on the economy, he said: "I cannot do in four months what my predecessors could not do in five years or 10 years."
Photo: Matthieu Riegler

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