France Expects to Beat New European Deficit-Reduction Targets

France plans to reduce its budget deficit more quickly than the most recent targets set for it by the European Union as growth revives for the first time since President Francois Hollande came to power.

The finance ministry sees the deficit falling to the equivalent of 3.8 percent of gross domestic product this year and 3.3 percent in 2016 before dropping to 2.7 percent in 2017, the year of the next presidential election. Those figures are better than the European Commission’s plan by 0.1 or 0.2 percentage points in each of those years.

France has been a serial breaker of budget rules that it helped write, drawing criticism from European partners in recent months. Even Finance Minister Michel Sapin, who has to plead the nation’s cause before colleagues in Brussels, comprehends the frustration.

“I understand that today there’s a sort of irritation with France,” Sapin said last month. “Objectively, France is weakened by its record.”

Sapin will present his latest budget plans to the French Cabinet next week before sending them on later this month to the Commission, which is in charge of enforcing European budget rules.

The finance ministry predicts growth of 1.0 percent this year and 1.5 percent in both of the following years. It assumes inflation will pick up to 1 percent next year from about zero in 2015.

Public debt is seen rising to 97 percent of GDP next year and then dropping to 96.9 percent in 2017.

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