September 9, 2014 / 7:59 PM / 4 years ago

Ex-French economy minister, weeks after ousting, snipes at Hollande

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s ex-economy minister Arnaud Montebourg - ousted just two weeks ago from his Socialist government - criticized President Francois Hollande on Tuesday as having constantly erred in policy and been “too brutal” in cutting a public deficit.

Former French Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg, delivers a speech as he attends the Socialist Party's "Universite d'ete" summer meeting in La Rochelle, western France, August 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Montebourg, along with two other rebellious ministers, was evicted in a cabinet reshuffle last month after he accused Germany of having ruined the euro zone economy with what he called an “obsession” with austerity.

In his first public criticism of the government since leaving his post, the outspoken left-winger attacked Hollande as being “very consistent in his mistakes” and having surrendered France to German liberal economic policies.

“The truth is that the French voted Left and they have ended up with the policies of the German Right,” Montebourg said in a joint interview with star French economist Thomas Piketty which is due to be published on Wednesday. “That’s one of the reasons for my split with this government.”

Montebourg, a lawyer by training known for his public spats with foreign business leaders, has made no secret of his ambition to run for president of France although he has not said whether he would be a candidate in 2017.

He argued that Hollande had placed too much emphasis on deficit reduction when more should have been done to stimulate economic growth.

With unemployment stuck above ten percent and economic growth nearly flat, deeply unpopular Hollande has shifted toward more business-friendly policies including billions of euros in planned payroll tax cuts to stimulate hiring.

The government has also planned 50 billion euros ($65 billion) in planned savings measures - plans which Montebourg attacked in the interview as counterproductive.

“The deficit reduction policy has been too brutal, too rapid, and was not understood (by voters) because it was not debated during the presidential campaign,” he said. “It contributes to worsening the situation rather than helping it.”

Hollande had constantly “brushed away” all his arguments to try to change government policy, Montebourg added.

Montebourg was replaced as economy minister by Emmanuel Macron, a 36-year-old former banker who has supported plans for further structural reform in Europe’s second-largest economy.

Asked if Macron represented a shift to yet more liberal policies, Montebourg said: “It’s too early to say. Let’s let him act.”

Reporting By Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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