France cuts frantically as Italy nears debt spiral
France has unveiled the toughest austerity measures since World War Two despite the looming danger of a double-dip recession, vowing to slash borrowing by €65bn over the next five years in a last-ditch effort to save the country’s AAA rating.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
07 Nov 2011
“We wish to protect the French against the grave problems facing other European countries. Bankruptcy is not an abstract word,” said premier Francois Fillon.
The belt-tightening plan — the second package since August, taking total cuts to €112bn — include a 5pc super-tax on big firms, a rise in VAT on restaurants and construction, and cuts on pensions, schools, health, and welfare. It is the latest squeeze in a relentless campaign of fiscal tightening across the eurozone.
“It is like the 1930s: imposing austerity on countries already in recession is the way into a death spiral,” said Danny Blanchflower, a former UK rate-setter.
Left-wing critics have evoked grim parallels with the “deflation decrees” of Pierre Laval in 1935 when France had to take ever harsher measures to preserve the country’s viability on the Gold Standard, a gamble that ultimately set off violent street protests.
France’s move came amid a further blizzard of grim data from Europe, confirming that most of the region is already on the cusp of recession. Growth has reached a “virtual standstill”, said EU commissioner Olli Rehn.