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French public auditors warn over rising debt

The auditors were unimpressed by Macron's response to the Yellow Vest movement
The auditors were unimpressed by Macron's response to the Yellow Vest movement RFI

France's public auditor has criticized president Emmanual Macron’s decision to loosen the country’s purse strings to try to end months of yellow vest protests.


The Cour des Comptes warned on Tuesday that the country's debt level, which is hovering at close to 100 percent, was "worrying" and urged the government to control spending.

The auditor said the money directed towards the grievances of the yellow vests had not been founded on savings elsewhere.

In a report, the public auditor said the growing divergence between France and its neighbours on debt reduction was "worrying" and "could lead to a deterioration of the perceived quality of France's debt among investors".

It criticized the government over its failure curb overspending noting it had the opportunity to take advantage of a spell of growth.

No French government has balanced the books since the 1970s.

On coming to power in 2017, Macron set about trying to cut the deficit to bring it in line with an EU limit of three percent of GDP, which the eurozone's second-biggest economy has flouted for the last ten years.

Last year, the deficit fell to a 12-year low of 2.5 percent of GDP, a decline which was greater-than-expected and achieved despite falling growth and purchasing power.


Pledge to balance books revised


But this year it is set to rise again above the 3.0-percent mark, increasing to 3.1 percent on the back of a package of tax cuts and income top-ups announced to try to defuse the anger of the anti-government yellow vests.

The measures are expected to drive up the public debt to 98.9 percent this year.

The government expects to be back on track with deficit reduction next year. It is aiming for a deficit of 1.2 percent by the end of Macron's first presidential term in 2022 – having apparently given up on its original 2017 campaign pledge to balance the books within five years.

The Cour des Comptes warned against any further let-up in the drive to clean up the country's finances.

The International Monetary Fund also warned last month that France's debt was "too high for comfort" and called on the government to cut spending.


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