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Video by Siobhán SILKE


Latest update : 2012-01-26

French Socialist presidential contender Francois Hollande promised to raise taxes on the rich and cancel billions of euros in tax breaks in his policy launch speech Thursday. Hollande is vying to be France's first Socialist president in 17 years.

REUTERS - French presidential frontrunner Francois Hollande says he will raise taxes on the rich, cut tax on profits for smallest firms and cancel billions of euros of tax breaks introduced by conservative Nicolas Sarkozy if he replaces him in May.

The Socialist Hollande, leading opinion polls, also says he will erase a large public deficit by 2017, marginally later than the current government, but argues in a manifesto unveiled on Thursday that he could do so and still create 60,000 teaching jobs and 150,000 state-funded jobs for first-time workers.

His election campaign director Pierre Moscovici said the left was serious about balancing the country’s books and accused Hollande’s main adversary of attempting to mislead voters.

“Mr Sarkozy is trying to peddle the myth which has it that the (political) left boils down to bad management, which boils down to (more) tax,” he told France Inter radio, adding that Hollande was proposing a more serious fiscal reform.

Details of Hollande’s election programme were published by his campaign team before he presents it to the media later on Thursday, having spelled out in a keynote speech on Sunday his broad plans for turning France around in the next five years.

Some 29 billion euros worth of tax breaks for wealthier people introduced under Sarkozy would be scrapped and 20 billion euros of new spending commitments made under the programme.

Company taxes on profits would be heavily cut for very small firms and lowered too for all but the biggest of companies.

Hollande plans to introduce a new, higher rate of income tax for earners of more than 150,000 euros a year, who will face a marginal rate of 45 percent, rather than 41 percent now.

More significantly, Hollande pledged more deep-rooted tax reforms that could lead to higher taxation of income that the wealthy get from the sale of shares and other investments over and above annual salaries.

Opinion polls for the two-round presidential election on April 22 and May 6 suggest Hollande could beat Sarkozy by as many as 10 percentage points in the deciding runoff, which would make him the first Socialist president in 17 years.

Hollande’s programme says overall staff levels in the civil service will not rise despite the extra 60,000 teachers, because of limiting hirings elsewhere. Under Sarkozy the government has been cutting civil service numbers through a policy of replacing only one in two who retire.

On the social front, Hollande also pledges to allow euthanasia for the terminally ill.

His programme also envisaged a 15 percent increase in tax on bank profits in the wake of the financial crisis that has shaken the world’s economy since 2007 and a pledge to separate retail banking activities from riskier investment banking business.

Moscovici called bankers’ pay awards “indecent” and said it was only fair to push the banking sector towards a system where savings were not put at risk by investment bank speculation in financial markets.

“We’ve no lessons to take from them,” he said.

Date created : 2012-01-26


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