French premier Fillon makes deficit new cabinet's priority

16th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Tuesday his reshuffled cabinet's priority would remain reducing the country's yawning debt, as President Nicolas Sarkozy had opted for "continuity" by renaming him.

"The president of the republic's choice to renew his trust in me is the choice of continuity," Fillon told the National Assembly two days after Sarkozy reshuffled the cabinet ahead of presidential elections in early 2012.

"My government's absolute priority will remain the fight against deficits, reducing debt, reducing public spending," Fillon said, "because it's a European undertaking... a necessity to ensure France's credibility alongside Germany."

Sarkozy is on Tuesday evening to outline the priorities for the final 18 months of his mandate in a prime-time television interview, with the incoming cabinet to meet for the first time on Wednesday morning.

Fillon on Tuesday was speaking during parliament's regular question time session, his first public statements since being renamed, and will on November 24 officially outline his government's priorities to lawmakers.

Sunday's reshuffle resulted in a leaner, more conservative government, with several centre-right and left-wing ministers fired to produce a team more likely to fall in behind Sarkozy's deficit-cutting austerity agenda.

The reshuffle came after months of intrigue and mass street protests against Sarkozy's extension of the base retirement age from 60 to 62, the key plank of his presidency aimed at reducing France's debt.

France's public deficit is about 7.7 percent of national output, a record high level and more than twice the European Union limit of 3.0 percent.

France's state deficit receded slightly to 124.2 billion euros at the end of September, the latest figures available, compared with 125.6 billion a year ago, as the economy picked up after the crisis and thanks to 2009 stimulus measures.

© 2010 AFP

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