PARIS, November 24 – The French government is assembling a committee of experts on how to repay the billions of euros it borrowed to save the economy from the coronavirus crisis, the Budget Minister said today, Olivier Dussopt.
A dozen people “with varied and very experienced profiles” will be responsible for charting the post-Covid path for France’s troubled public finances, Dussopt told AFP.
The list already includes top business leaders as well as economists, including Beatrice Weder di Mauro, a Swiss-Italian who advised German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
President Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker, has said he wants to avoid new taxes to cover massive financial aid to businesses hammered by Covid lockdowns and other restrictions since March.
While this remains the goal, “we want this working group to explore the issue and make its own proposals,” Dussopt said.
France has announced some 460 billion euros (RM 2.2 trillion) in state-guaranteed grants and loans to hard-hit sectors, from automakers and airlines to wine growers and small business owners.
The government has also covered the bulk of the salaries of employees forced to stay at home during the lockdown in an attempt to limit layoffs.
As a result, France’s overall debt is expected to climb to 120% of its GDP this year, after falling to just under 100% last year.
Yet the economic recession – the French central bank sees its GDP fall by 10% this year, depending on how long the new Covid restrictions remain in place – will limit the government’s room for maneuver.
Macron is set to address the nation today on the fight against coronaviruses and is expected to allow some stores to reopen before the end of year holidays as the number of new cases declines. – AFP