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Hollande set to announce unprecedented austerity

PARIS--French President Francois Hollande was Sunday due to announce unprecedented belt-tightening measures of billions of euros amid mounting discontent over the flagging economy and job cuts.

Hollande, whose popularity ratings have slid less than four months after he took power, is looking vulnerable as he prepares to push through a deficit-cutting budget and face down union anger over mounting layoffs.

The Journal du Dimanche weekly warned Sunday that Hollande — who famously said he does not “like the rich” and proposed a stinging 75-percent tax on income exceeding 1 million euros (US$1.28 million), would announce “unprecedented” austerity.

It said the president would late Sunday outline, on the private TF1 television channel, new taxes of between “15 and 20 billion euros” (US$19-25 billion) as well as austerity measures that would save 10 billion euros.

The keenly-awaited discourse comes on the heels of the shock announcement by France's richest man Bernard Arnault, the boss of luxury goods giant LVMH, who declared that he was seeking Belgian citizenship.

That prompted Francois Fillion, the prime minister of former right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy, to denounce the “stupid decisions” which lead to “terrible results.”

But the world's arbiter of good taste has denied that he was seeking to become a tax exile with his company stating his attempt to acquire double nationality did not “change his situation or his determination to create jobs in France.

France's finance minister meanwhile told AFP that the 75-percent tax on the wealthy would not be watered down.

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