Raffarin stands by his luxury-loving minister

24th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 23 (AFP) - The French government said Wednesday there was "never any question" of Economy and Finance Minister Herve Gaymard resigning after media revealed that he had been living in a huge luxury flat off the Champs-Elysees at taxpayers' expense.

PARIS, Feb 23 (AFP) - The French government said Wednesday there was "never any question" of Economy and Finance Minister Herve Gaymard resigning after media revealed that he had been living in a huge luxury flat off the Champs-Elysees at taxpayers' expense.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin "has expressed his friendship and trust" in Gaymard, Raffarin's office said, adding that "there was never any question at any time" of the minister resigning.

Gaymard was embarrassed by an article last week in Le Canard Enchaine, a weekly specialising in political exposes, that said he, his wife and their eight children had been living in a vast two-storey, 600-square-metre(6,500-square-foot) flat in one of the French capital's most expensive neighbourhoods, along with a butler, a cook, a nanny and two housekeepers.

The rent for the posh address was EUR 14,000 (USD 18,500) per month - equivalent to his monthly ministerial salary - paid out of public coffers, the newspaper said.

The revelation forced Gaymard to give up the apartment and the government to revise its rules for ministerial lodgings.

Gaymard on Wednesday pledged to personally reimburse EUR 31,800 spent on making the apartment a two-storey property, as well as the rent for the month of February.

Despite those actions, the sense of scandal over the matter has persisted, with Gaymard forced to confirm new reports in Le Canard Enchaine and Le Monde that he had been renting the flat even though he owned a four-bedroom apartment elsewhere in Paris.

Many media homed in on the contrast between Gaymard's expensive digs and his exhortations for budgetary restraint to get France's finances back down under deficit limits imposed on eurozone countries.

Several ministers and senior officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, admitted that the affair had blemished the government and cast a cloud over Gaymard's career.

"It's very difficult for him to stay on in the job," a senior member of President Jacques Chirac's conservative UMP party said.

"In any other democracy, he would have to resign," another said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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