French auditor urges economic reforms to slash spending

French President Francois Hollande has vowed to reduce unemployment by the end of this year.
Image caption French President Francois Hollande came to power on a promise to reverse industrial decline

France's national auditor has warned that further cuts in public spending are needed if the country is to get its ailing economy back on track.

The Cour des Comptes said the deficit is on course to exceed the government's 3.7% target due to lower tax receipts.

A cut in the "weight of public spending seems more necessary than ever", the quasi-judicial body said in a report.

The government forecasts annual growth of 0.1 this year, but other economists have predicted contraction.

Earlier this year, the European Commission gave France an extra two years to bring its public deficit below an EU ceiling of 3% of gross domestic product.

But the Cour de Comptes said in its annual report that this was no reason to ease up on budget cuts.

In France, public spending accounts for about 56% of GDP, among the highest in the eurozone. Unemployment is at an all-time high.

Francois Hollande's government aims to reduce public spending by 13bn euros in 2014 and 15bn euros in 2015 by cutting state aid and local government budgets.

But the influential Cour des Comptes said this was not enough.

"(France's) deficits remain higher than the eurozone and European Union average. There must be no slackening in this effort and the focus from now on must be on spending," the body said.

Trimming state aid and local authority budgets "can only be temporary," the auditor said.

It added: "Structural reforms must be put in place from today to ensure the lasting recovery of public finances."

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