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Macron said to eye cuts to US$34 billion infrastructure plan

Thursday, June 29, 2017 - 22:35

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Emmanuel Macron's government is considering trimming its infrastructure-investment program as the president fights to reduce French public spending, according to an official document seen by Bloomberg.

[PARIS] Emmanuel Macron's government is considering trimming its infrastructure-investment program as the president fights to reduce French public spending, according to an official document seen by Bloomberg.

France is due to spend about 30 billion euros (S$47.3 billion) through 2025 on projects such as the Lyon-Turin rail tunnel and the Seine Nord Europe canal, which would allow barge traffic from Belgium to reach Paris, as well as extensions to the French highway network. Those plans could be delayed or scaled back, the document showed, though the express train linking Charles-de-Gaulle airport with the center of the French capital is outside the portfolio of projects up for review.

France's National Auditor said in a report Thursday that, if no action is taken, the government will miss its target for this year's budget deficit because of rising spending in the final months of Francois Hollande's administration. A succession of ministers including the premier, Edouard Philippe, have warned that cuts may be needed.

All ministries "will be expected to make sacrifices," Christophe Castaner, cabinet minister and government spokesman, said Wednesday. "The best way to control the deficit is through cutting spending, not raising taxes." The budget situation puts Mr Macron in a delicate position since he's pledged to build France a reputation for fiscal probity with its European allies, but also promised tax cuts for businesses in the medium term.

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France has spent about 2 billion euros a year on infrastructure investment since 2014, according to the funding agency's website. That's set to rise to 3.5 billion next year and peak at nearly 4 billion euros a year in 2020 and 2021, the government document showed. The investment program is due to be completed in 2025.

Shares of construction-related companies declined after Bloomberg reported on the document. Vinci SA sank 3 per cent to 75.08 euros at 3:15 pm in Paris, while Eiffage SA dropped 3.4 per cent to 80.12 euros and Bouygues SA lost 2.8 perc ent to 37.37 euros.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said that reducing spending and the budget shortfall is a matter of "credibility" and "national sovereignty."

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