France’s Ayrault Promises Tax Hikes, No Spending Cuts

France’s new prime minister announces income and corporate tax increases, but he rejects austerity.

French prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault makes a speech in Marseilles, May 30
French prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault makes a speech in Marseilles, May 30 (PS/Mathieu Delmestre)

In his first address to parliament as prime minister, France’s Jean-Marc Ayrault has called for a national effort to deal with the country’s “crushing” public debt.

“But I reject austerity,” he said and had only tax increases to offer.

On the same day that France’s new Socialist government slashed the growth forecast from .7 to .3 percent, Ayrault received thunderous applause from left-wing lawmakers when he announced a sales tax reduction and the introduction of two new income tax rates of 45 and 75 percent for the wealthy.

The Socialists also plan to raise a one-time levy of €2.3 billion on those with a net wealth over €1.3 million as well as more than €1 billion in a special tax on banks and energy companies.

Parliament is set to approve the measures later this month.

Pressure

With its debt due to exceed 90 percent of gross domestic product this year, France is under pressure from its European partners and international money markets to slash spending. The country lost its valued AAA credit rating from the Standard and Poor’s agency in January.

Ayrault’s budget is virtually certain to pass, given that the Socialists and their allies won a majority in June’s parliamentary elections.

France plans to reduce its deficit to 3 percent of GDP next year in accordance with European treaty rules, but Ayrault also confirmed campaign pledges from President François Hollande that tens of thousands more teachers and other public servants would be hired.

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