French budget talks got off to a tense start in the National Assembly this week as the opposition branded the proposed budget plan ‘austerity’ and the government insisted it would protect households.
Read the original article in French here.
Monday, October 10 marked the start of discussions on two bills: the French national budget for 2023 and the public finance program for 2023-2027. The latter will be used to map budgetary priorities for the next five years, particularly in terms of public spending and debt in the context of France’s European commitments.
The budget debate opened with speeches by Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire and Public Accounts Minister Gabriel Attal.
Accused by both the left and far right of presenting an austerity plan, Le Maire said he “[understood] perfectly that the parliamentary groups indifferent to the level of the public debt will not vote this law [of public finance programming 2023-2027]”.
However, the Minister of the Economy added that he was “surprised by the inconsistency of parliamentarians who refuse to vote for a text that goes in this direction”, implicitly criticizing the right-wing deputies of the Les Républicains bloc, who are rather in favor of a public debt reduction.
The Minister then advised them to “remain faithful to their convictions, rather than allying themselves with the [left-wing coalition] NUPES or the [far-right] National rally.
The Mayor defended the government’s budget, saying it protects households against inflation, not least because it proposes to extend the tariff shield that France has put in place for energy prices so that it applies in 2023 – at a cost that the government estimates at 46 billion euros.
Along with the continued reduction in production taxes – business value added tax and business property tax – this measure is intended to help French industry, Le Maire explained.
He said the government also intended to increase teachers’ salaries and recruit 3,000 more police officers over the next year.
“Lack of seriousness”
The Mayor also criticized the opposition for adopting amendments in committee which would cost more than 7 billion euros, arguing that this proved to be a “lack of seriousness”.
Attal, for his part, warned against attempts at parliamentary obstruction, fearing that the “3,500 amendments tabled” could lead to a “bottleneck” in parliamentary life.
He also urged lawmakers not to make a “show of stalemate at a time when [the French] we need our country to rise to the challenge” — a perhaps veiled warning that government lawmakers can use section 49.3 of the constitution, which allows bills to pass without a vote.
The “debate must take place”
But the use of this constitutional tool could indeed lead other parties to table a motion of no confidence in the government, which would lead to a continued stalemate at a time when the passage of a budget to help the households to fight inflation would be critical.
The right-wing camp considers the proposed budget to be too costly and not allowing sufficient savings, for example through debureaucratization of the state.
The far right of Marine Le Pen, however, sees it as a capitulation to the EU, since the government plans to respect the criteria of the stability pact (in particular the 3% budget deficit) from 2027.
According to the left, it is rather a return to austerity that would generate social injustice, especially since it does not provide for a wage increase commensurate with their demands (+10%) and there is no there is no general tax on windfall profits.
As no one outside the deputies of the government majority – who only have a relative majority in parliament – is interested in supporting the budget proposed by the government, the use of article 49.3, which allows the adoption of the budget without a parliamentary vote, is highly possible.
Representing the radical left La France Insoumise, Éric Coquerel, chairman of the parliament’s finance committee, also said he believed the government’s budget was based on “objectively overestimated growth and objectively underestimated inflation forecasts. “, but called on the government not to circumvent the vote since the “debate must take place”.
Faced with accusations that the government wanted to avoid debate, Attal reversed the situation on La France Insoumise, which itself signed two motions demanding the rejection, without debate, of the two finance bills. Both have been rejected, even by other right-wing and far-right opposition groups.
“You don’t know how to explain how you would protect [the French people]how you would fund your measures,” he said. said to left-wing MPs.
“When was the last time a demonstration filled the fridge of the French? he asked, referring to the march against the rising cost of living that NUPES is organizing on October 16.
Meanwhile, far-right leader Marine Le Pen has stressed that her group, the second largest in parliament, will “try to improve” the bill which she considers unfair and costly. She will push her party to adopt an attitude of “constructive opposition”, she added.
As tensions remain high and parties appear ready to pull out their cards if necessary, the debate is expected to continue in the days ahead – unless the government pulls Article 49.3 to push the bill through of finance.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]