Sarkozy vows to put 'fuel' back in French economy

2nd April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 2, 2007 (AFP) - French presidential frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday vowed to put "fuel" in the sluggish economy by creating millions of jobs and more growth, in an election programme that he said valued hard work.

PARIS, April 2, 2007 (AFP) - French presidential frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday vowed to put "fuel" in the sluggish economy by creating millions of jobs and more growth, in an election programme that he said valued hard work.

The rightwing candidate spelled out plans to bring unemployment -- a front-burner issue in the campaign for the April 22 vote -- down to five percent from its current rate of 8.4 percent, one of the highest in Europe.

He also took a swipe at the strength of the euro, saying that France was the victim of "monetary dumping" from the United States, China and Japan, whose currencies he said were undervalued.

"We certainly didn't join the eurozone so that our growth figures would be one or two percent behind the others," Sarkozy told a news conference to present his official election programme.

With the first round of voting 20 days away, Sarkozy vowed to move quickly to tackle France's economic ills, saying many of the measures would be put into motion this summer -- if he wins victory in the May 6 runoff.

"We are going to put fuel into the French economy right away," he vowed.

Sarkozy, 52, left office as interior minister a week ago to concentrate on his election campaign as the candidate of the governing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

With polls showing he is maintaining his lead over Socialist rival Segolene Royal, Sarkozy emphasized that he had concrete ideas on tackling France's economic ills and that "the time for incantation was over."

His strategy to boost consumer spending provides for reducing social charges and taxes on employee paychecks by four percentage points over 10 years, to bring the deductions in line with the European average.

The measure, which he said would be submitted to parliament this summer, would give back 15 million euros (20 million dollars) out of a total 68 million euros in tax breaks and incentives to French employees.

He also said that bringing unemployment down to below five percent was an economic imperative after decades of joblessness.

"I know that it's possible, and more importantly I am sure that we have no other choice," he said.

"France has become the country in Europe that works the least. This is at the root of its economic drop-out, the poverty of so many families, the debt and its deficits, because the state is ruining itself by taking responsibility for the social consequences of unemployment."

Sarkozy reiterated his proposal for some overtime hours to be tax-free and pledged to pare down the public service by replacing only half of all retiring state employees.
 
He also said he was considering legislation that would bar the state from "going into debt over anything other than investment expenditures", suggesting a freeze on government spending.

Turning to the value of the euro, Sarkozy called for greater harmonisation of policies between the 13 member-states of the eurozone and asserted that the strength of the euro was harming European exports.

"When the euro gains 10 cents, Airbus loses one million euros from its orders," he said.

Sarkozy boasted that an independent institute, Rexocode, had confirmed that his proposals for reform would boost growth by between 1 to 1.3 percent and make a dent in joblessness.

"We have the potential to create millions of jobs in our country," he said.

Although the French economy is riding the wave of a broader European economic upswing, its growth trailed its European partners last year, rising only 2.1 percent compared with 2.6 percent for both Germany and the 13-nation eurozone.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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