Rift grows within French government over pace of cuts

Paris, April 10: French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday promised to stick with deficit-reduction plans, despite stirrings of a revolt within his Socialist government over cuts that critics say bow too much to German demands for austerity.

Hollande is seeking more than 60 billion euros of savings to balance the budget by the end of his mandate in 2017, arguing that knocking public finances into shape must go hand in hand with efforts to restore jobs and economic growth.

'It's by following reforms that we have begun that France will be best placed to shift Europe's priorities to growth,' he told a news conference.

'The goal is growth, the requirement is job creation. This policy has been fixed, I will not alter it,' he said, insisting the budgetary rigour could not be classified as 'austerity' - the term used to describe similar reforms in Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Benoit Hamon, junior minister for consumer affairs, was the latest minister to disagree, calling on Hollande on Wednesday to back away from measures he said could stir nationalist sentiment in France and elsewhere in Europe.

The mini-revolt comes after 35 Socialist lawmakers abstained in Tuesday's parliament vote on Hollande's shake-up of rigid French labour laws - the most important reform yet of his 11-month-old government and one that was easily approved because opposition conservatives also abstained.

Hollande's government has acknowledged it will miss a target of cutting the deficit to three percent of output this year from 4.8 percent in 2012, but has promised to do so by 2014 en route to a goal of balancing the budget by 2017.

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Courtesy:ISTV Imphal


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