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France launches 57-bn euro investment fund

© AFP | French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe speaks following a report French economist Jean Pisani-Ferry on the Grand Investment Plan for 2018-2022 on September 25, 2017 at the Hotel Matignon in Paris

PARIS (AFP) - 

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced plans Monday to pour 57 billion euros ($67.8 billion) into modernising France's sluggish economy, with a hefty chunk set aside for making it more environmentally-friendly.

Spread over five years, the fund will be slightly bigger than the 50 billion euros that centrist Emmanuel Macron had pledged when he was elected president in May.

Philippe said the fund would have an "amplifier effect" on the new government's reform programme, which includes labour law changes designed to bring down stubbornly high unemployment rate of 9.5 percent.

"It's about giving power and visibility to our major investment priorities," Philippe told a press conference.

Twenty billion euros will be used to fund a transition towards a greener economy, Philippe said, including nine billion for making buildings more energy efficient and seven billion for renewable energy development.

The government will spend nine billion euros on digitising the public sector, 15 billion extra on training and education, and 13 billion on broader innovation.

Philippe said some of the funding would come from existing ministerial budgets and some from the European Investment Bank.

Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said earlier that around five billion euros from the fund was for modernising the agricultural sector in Europe's biggest food producer.

The launch comes as Macron's government prepares to announce the first budget of his five-year term on Wednesday.

© 2017 AFP