French leader decides not to step back from budget targets

French leader decides not to step back from budget targets

PARIS - Reuters
French leader decides not to step back from budget targets

French President and ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party candidate for 2012 election Sarkozy arrives to a meeting of UMP’s youth organization in Paris. Photo

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will stick to a target for 115 billion euros in savings up to 2016 when he presents his re-election manifesto in the days ahead, he said in an interview published yesterday.

Sarkozy is battling to overturn a deep disillusionment with his presidency, including among many who voted for him in 2007, that is due in part to three years of economic gloom and in part to a widespread dislike of his personal style.

New revenues

The conservative leader, who is lagging Socialist challenger Francois Hollande in opinion polls, will outline his election program just weeks from the first-round vote on April 22.

His goal was 75 billion euros ($ 100 billion) in spending cuts and 40 billion in new revenues over the next five years, he told regional dailies Est Republicain, Republicain Lorrain and Vosges Matin.
“I have not stopped proposing ideas since the campaign started,” he said.

Sarkozy already has parliamentary approval for measures that would bring in 32 billion euros of additional income and he said he intended to secure the remaining 8 billion through new taxes on big companies and by making tax exiles pay contributions.

Sarkozy has opted to delay his re-election program until the last moment and instead unveil proposals one by one for maximum impact and to contrast with Hollande, who detailed a weighty program in January based around raising taxes on the rich to fund investment in education and jobs.

‘Figures with no source’

The Socialists say the blow-by-blow campaign strategy makes Sarkozy look ill-prepared. Hollande’s campaign chief Pierre Moscovici told LCI television it was irresponsible to give budget figures without explaining where they came from.

The focus of the election race is returning to the economy, which is at the top of voters’ concerns as purchasing power has been battered by first the global economic crisis then a euro zone debt crisis that has left Europe’s recovery lagging North America’s.

Unemployment, which Sarkozy vowed in 2007 to combat, is now higher than before the 2008 crisis, even if France has resisted dipping into a recession again in recent months.

This month’s shootings saw Sarkozy, a law-and-order leader who thrives in a crisis, inch up slightly in opinion polls although Hollande is still in a clear lead for a May 6 run off.