French press review 29 September 2012
The austerity budget presented on Friday by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault for 2013 is at the heart of Saturday’s national press headlines.
The government is desperate to plug a 37 billion euro black hole in public finances with the toughest package of tax rises and spending cuts in years. Le Monde reports that the goal is to meet the Socialist government’s target of reducing its budget deficit from an expected level of 4.5 percent of GDP this year to the EU-mandated ceiling of three percent in 2013. That is “an unprecedented effort of budget austerity”, according to the evening newspaper.
Le Figaro derides the decision to take billions out of the economy at a time when unemployment is close to record highs. The conservative paper made its own calculations. The Socialists finance bill raises income taxes by 23 percent and increased the state’s work force by 6,000 more civil servants. For Le Figaro, the finance bill doesn’t make economic sense, as it imposes harsher fiscal measures on households and small businesses, while increasing the number of civil service staff for the first time in 10 years.
Le Parisien/Aujourd’hui en France wonders “who is going to be spared and who is going to pay”. It is the wealthiest households that will shoulder the burden, says the paper. It however believes that middle income workers will not be completely spared by the “fiscal effort” the government is urging tax payers to make.
For its part, the left-leaning daily Libération turns its attention to funding problems at France's public media organisations: “It is belt-tightening times at France Television”. Libé estimates that the budget shortfall of state subsidies for public television could reach 85 million euros this year. According to the paper, the budget cuts are unprecedented; they weaken the audiovisual group and tempt its managers to lay off workers.
La Croix brings Justice Minister Christiane Taubira’s proposed reform of “prisons outside walls” under scrutiny. The Catholic newspaper explains that Taubira’s flagship concept seeks the creation of a new penal sentence which allows convicts to serve their terms in open places.
It is “probation” says La Croix, adding the measure is being applied with great success by several other countries. The Catholic newspaper is visibly delighted by the inroads the proposed reform is making in French opinion, despite the charges of laxity on crime launched by the conservative UMP opposition against the government’s agenda for justice reform.