France is unveiling its 2015 budget right now and it’s not making pretty reading, confirming that Paris will not get its budget deficit down to the EU limit of three percent of GDP until 2017, years after it should have done.
The health minister has said the welfare deficit is expected to run nearly one billion euros over budget this year and data on Tuesday showed France’s national debt hit a record high in the second quarter, topping two trillion euros for the first time. It will near 100 percent of GDP next year.
All this is predicated on growth picking up and the proportion of national income going on public spending will fall only glacially.
French President Francois Hollande and Italy’s Matteo Renzi are leading a drive to use the maximum amount of flexibility within EU rules to allow a bit more spending or lower taxes to get growth going – French Finance Minister Michel Sapin has just said the pace of budget consolidation in the euro zone must be adapted to reflect the reality of a stagnant economy.
Germany, as usual, is sceptical and is making great play of the fact it will have no net new borrowing next year for the first time since 1969 even though its economy is barely growing. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has also called for more active fiscal policy from euro zone governments, a hint perhaps that he thinks the ECB has done as much as it can.
There have been signs of a developing compact, German reluctance notwithstanding, whereby some leeway on debt would be allowed in return for meaningful labour and other structural economic reforms from the likes of France and Italy.