France’s rising deficit stoked by minimum wage increase

28 Apr 20

Emmanuel Macron’s “expensive” response to the ‘yellow vest’ movement is partly to blame for France’s public deficit rising in 2019, the country’s court of auditors has found.


Emmanuel Macron, French presidential candidate. Shutterstock 618031208

Emmanuel Macron, French president

Although the Cour des Comptes praised the government’s handling of public finances generally in its annual report into the state budget, it found the pace of spending growth had increased, while income had fallen.

In December 2018, following sustained and sometimes violent protests, president Macron promised tax concessions and a €100 per month rise in the minimum wage, paid by the government rather than employers.

From 2018: Macron responds to riots with promise of tax cuts and wage hikes

The auditors said these measures contributed to the rising deficit – France’s largest since 2010.

Spending grew by 2.2% (€7.2bn) to €336.1bn, after rising by only 0.4% in 2018, and net government revenue fell by 6% (€15bn) to €233.3bn.

The resulting deficit of €92.7bn was equivalent to 3% of GDP – a rise of 0.4 percentage points compared with 2018.

This led to debt reaching €1.8trn by the end of last year.

“Under the effect of the high deficit level in 2019, the state debt continued to increase at a rapid pace,” the auditors found.

“This increase, slowed down by the high amount of premiums and discounts, did not translate into an increase in interest charges, which on the contrary were reduced due to the fall in interest rates and slowing inflation.

“The near-doubling of government debt since the 2008 crisis, however, makes it very vulnerable to a rate hike.”

The audit office noted that the situation in France’s public finances is different now, as a result of measures the government is taking to combat the health and economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its first report into the impact these measures are having is expected to be published in June.

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