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August 23, 2017

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Hollande outlines sweeping new taxes for recovery

PARIS--France's Socialist President Francois Hollande pledged 30 billion euros in new taxes and savings to balance the budget and fund a turnaround in two years, and rejected criticism of dragging his feet.

Hollande, whose popularity ratings have taken a dive less than four months after he took office amid mounting discontent over the flagging economy and job cuts, also said a 75-percent wealth tax on incomes over one million euros (US$1.28 million) would not be diluted.

"The course is the recovery of France," he said Sunday in a television interview on the TF1 channel.

"I have to set the course and the rhythm" to combat "high joblessness, falling competitiveness and serious deficits," he said. "My mission is a recovery plan and the timeframe is two years."

"The government has not lost time," he added. "It has reacted swiftly."

Hollande — who has famously said he does not "like the rich" — said US$10 billion would come from additional taxes on households "especially the well-heeled," 10 billion more from businesses and 10 billion from savings in government spending.

It would be the biggest hike in three decades.

"We will not spend one euro more in 2013 than what we did in 2012," he said.

He also vowed to curb unemployment, currently pegged at over three million, in a year's time.

Hit by the eurozone debt crisis, France's economy just avoided entering a recession in the second quarter.

Amid a decline in his popularity, Hollande has had the onerous task of preparing a 2013 budget that must save more than 30 billion euros to meet European Union deficit reduction rules.

Accused by critics of procrastinating and not adequately spelling out how he will fund his tax-and-spend program, Hollande said he could not perform miracles.

"I cannot do in four months what my predecessors could not do in five years or 10 years," he said, referring to his immediate hyperactive, right-wing predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, whose personal style and functioning were vastly different from Hollande, whose aim is to be a "normal" president.

But far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen scoffed at the president's remarks, saying in a television interview that the "fired-up powerlessness" of Sarkozy had been replaced by the "limp powerlessness" of Hollande.

'Appeal to patriotism'

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