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Le Maire Has an Answer for France’s Political Inertia: Vacation

·2 min read

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French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire proposed overcoming the threat of deadlock in the country’s divided parliament by forcing lawmakers to make proposals on how to repair public finances, while the government takes a break.

Legislative elections last month plunged France into political uncertainty it hasn’t faced for decades as President Emmanuel Macron’s party lost its outright majority at the National Assembly. While his government’s first bill on boosting households’ purchasing power may find support among opposition groups, the 2023 budget will require difficult cutbacks that are likely to be more divisive.

“As soon as a finance minister with a list of spending cuts opens his mouth he’s told to shut up,” Le Maire said at an economics conference in Aix-en-Provence. “I propose a new method for lawmakers to get a grip on the subject instead of the government -- I’ll go on vacation, get some sun and rest and make our friends in parliament work.”

The risk of political inertia in France comes as country faces a reckoning with bloated debts and deficits after massive outlays during the Covid pandemic and costly measures to shelter households from surging inflation.

The country’s auditor warned last week that France could become a risk for the whole euro area, while Le Maire himself has declared public finances have reached “alert level.”

Because around 10% of France’s debt is indexed to inflation, the acceleration of prices and an increase in borrowing rates will cost the state an additional 12 billion euros ($12.2 billion) this year, according to government estimates.

The finance minister’s plan would see the creation of a “task-force” of lawmakers from all parties to conduct a fundamental review of outlays before the government presents the budget bill to parliament at the end of September.

“This time we don’t have a choice: we must start cutting public spending,” the French minister said at the economics conference.

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