France's Hollande says economic recovery has begun

AFP , Sunday 14 Jul 2013

He vowed to fight his nation's 'pessimism,' which he said was worse in France than in neighboring countries and even 'countries at war'

President Francois Hollande said on Sunday that recovery had started in France's struggling economy, which entered a recession this year and has record-high unemployment.

"The economic recovery is here," he said during a Bastille Day interview with top television channels, adding that industrial production had picked up and there had been a slight recovery in consumption.

He vowed to fight his nation's "pessimism", which he said was worse in France than in neighbouring countries and even "countries at war".

But with France struggling to get its deficit under control, Hollande could not rule out tax increases to help balance the budget.

"We will make -- we have made -- savings (in spending) and I will increase taxes only if absolutely necessary, ideally as little as possible," he said.

France's economy entered a recession in the first quarter of this year but is forecast to return to growth in the second quarter, with a 0.2 percent expansion.

"There is a recovery in industrial production," Hollande said, after it increased by one percent in March-April.

Hollande also repeated his promise to reverse the rise in unemployment by the end of the year, after the number of jobless in France hit a record 3.26 million.

"I am fighting" for jobs, Hollande said.

"There is the will, there is a strategy, there is consistency," he said, promising that 100,000 jobs for youth would be created by the end of the year.

He also said France would push ahead with controversial pension reforms expected in the autumn, which have already led to calls from unions for general strikes.

"Everyone will be called on to make efforts," he said, repeating that the number of working years required to receive full pension payments will likely increase.

He said "immediate measures" were needed to overhaul France's state pension system, which is forecast to fall more than 20 billion euros ($26 billion) into the red by 2020.

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