Francois Hollande, the left-wing front runner in the French presidential race, has an answer to France's economic crisis: make the rich pay.
The Socialist lawmaker promised to reverse the legacy of President Nicolas Sarkozy by raising taxes for banks, big companies and the richest people, and use the money to help wipe out the nation's crippling public deficit, The New York Times reported.
After criticism that Hollande had appeared too vague about his plans for France and its slowing economy, Hollande this week issued a package of 60 measures — to be implemented over a five-year presidential term — that would:
- balance the budget by 2017
- increase spending gradually by up to 20 billion euros (about $26 billion) and government income — taxes — by up to 29 billion euros (about $38 billion).
- raise the income tax bracket for those making more than 150,000 euros a year (about $197,000) to 45 percent from 40 percent, and cap tax deductions for individuals at 10,000 euros a year (about $13,000)
- increase taxes on bank profits and create a financial-transaction tax
- pump more money into schools and state-assisted jobs.
And, he said: "I only make promises that I will be able to keep. Everything I say will be done."
Keeping new tax revenues carefully higher than spending, the program re-established Hollande as a fiscally responsible center-leftist, after his recent attack on the financial sector, even if some economists found it lacking in structural reform ideas.
Hollande's plan also puts him ahead of Sarkozy in terms of laying out the detail of his campaign pledges, to the annoyance of many in Sarkozy's ruling UMP Party, according to Reuters.
Hollande, 57, is leading in opinion polls, aided by a recent strong showing in a primetime TV debate with foreign minister Alain Juppe, one of Sarkozy's most experienced cabinet members.
"This is a key moment for [Sarkozy] because it comes after a week that has been a very good one for Hollande," the news service quotes Brice Teinturier, deputy director at pollster Ipsos, as saying.
"Hollande has clearly retaken the offensive and above all he has disproved two of the UMP's criticisms of him: a lack of presidential character and weight, and having flabby proposals, because he's come up with 60 that are pretty precise."
Meanwhile, Hollande's recent declaration that his real adversary in the presidential campaign was not Sarkozy but the "world of finance" made the front page headline leftist French paper Liberation.
Sarkozy was preparing a response in a TV interview on Sunday, Reuters reported.
The NYTimes quoted the head of Sarkozy’s center-right political party, Jean-François Copé, as saying that Hollande’s promises were a "fiscal clobbering of the middle class."