French companies, unions question Hollande's new vision
By Mark John
PARIS (Reuters) - French business raised doubts on Wednesday over Socialist President Francois Hollande's plan for public spending cuts and structural reform to revive the euro zone's second largest economy.
His allies hailed a new "social democrat" vision for France but unions said they were worried about job cuts to the army of state sector workers and far-left politicians accused him of a sell-out as he moved towards the political center.
Hollande, who has not denied magazine allegations last week of an affair with actress, deflected questions on his personal life at a marathon news conference on Tuesday unveiling plans to find at least 50 billion euros of spending cuts between 2015-2017 and cut corporate charges by 30 billion euros.
The European Commission said the moves should make French business more competitive. While France's main employers' group broadly welcomed the plan, it rejected his call for companies to commit to specific targets for new hires.
"What exactly is the magnitude of the structural reforms he announced? We need to have a clarification," said Medef president Pierre Gattaz, who has suggested the French private sector could create an extra one million jobs if freed from excessive charges.
Critics say French public spending at around 57 percent of national output - some 12 points more than in neighboring Germany - is too high while the national audit office has said that French debt at 93.4 percent of GDP is "in the danger zone".
But Hollande's plans prompted an onslaught of criticism from France's hard left and even from the far-right National Front's Marine Le Pen, who said he converted to "ultra-liberal" economics.
"It's called social democracy ... and social democracy is on the left," Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, a centrist leader in Hollande's Socialist Party, told LCI television. Continued...