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France moves to cut spending, amid scandals over official perks

Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday evening he was cutting ministerial privileges and would sanction ministers who wasted public money, after announcing a series of austerity measures aimed at reducing public deficits.

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French ministers are being asked to reduce spending by taking the train and reducing their teams of advisers. In a letter to his prime minister, François Fillon, Sarkozy said he would get rid of 10,000 government vehicles and 7,000 lodgings lent to officials and ministers.

Sarkozy also says he is scrapping the annual Elysée Palace garden party held on 14 July.

On Tuesday, Socialist lawmaker Jerome Cahuzac slammed Sarkozy’s budget reductions as having no impact on public deficit. He said certain reductions were “comical”.

“I think one should always be wary when leaders say they are going to tighten their belts. It usually means that austerity measures on others will be tougher that what was feared,” said Cahuzac.

Sarkozy announced his measures amid several scandals over ministers' spending and behaviour. Development State Secretary for Paris Christian Blanc has come under fire for buying 12,000 euros worth of cigars with public money.

Labour minister Eric Woerth is also at the centre of a row over tax evasion by France's richest woman. His wife is accused of turning a blind eye to tax evasion as she helped manage Liliane Bettencourt's 16-billion-euro fortune.

 

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