France: Is Chirac Finally Ready To Roll Up His Sleeves?

Seldom has a powerful new leader come to grief as quickly as French President Jacques Chirac. Just six months after Chirac won office, his approval rating has plunged to a mere 14%. It's easy to see why. Although he pledged to cut taxes, his government is raising them instead. And despite Chirac's vow to create jobs, unemployment has started rising--to 11.5% in September from 11.4% in August--after falling from a peak of 12.5% last December. Prime Minister Alain Juppe has taken only a modest stab at a third Chirac promise: cutting budget deficits. That has soured investors on France and threatens efforts to create a common European currency.

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