Bruno Le Maire refutes any concealment of information on the slippage of the deficit

Bruno Le Maire refutes any concealment of information on the slippage of the deficit
Bruno Le Maire refutes any concealment of information on the slippage of the deficit

“I have always demonstrated, in the seven years that I have been Minister of the Economy and Finance, sincerity, honesty and a sense of the truth,” affirmed Bruno Le Maire before the senators of the Finance Committee.

The Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, vigorously defended himself on Thursday of having concealed from Parliament information on the slippage of the public deficit in 2023, which is “brutally” rose to 5.5% of GDP compared to 4.9% initially anticipated. For almost three hours, Bruno Le Maire was on the grill of questions from the senators of the Finance Committee, who had launched a mission at the end of March on the deterioration of the public deficit and the “lack of information from Parliament” on the situation.

Criticized by oppositions for the slippage in the public deficit, the government attributed it to tax revenues of 21 billion euros lower than expected last year. “All information was given in good time to Parliament and the French, and all the necessary decisions were taken in good time to correct the consequences of lower tax revenue than expected”argued Bruno Le Maire.

The minister recalled that 10 billion euros in savings had already been made in state spending and that he was looking for 10 billion additional cuts to be made in 2024. “I have always demonstrated, in the seven years that I have been Minister of the Economy and Finance, sincerity, honesty and a sense of the truth”he defended himself. “All accusations (…) that I deliberately concealed from Parliament information that was at my disposal are serious and unfounded.”

The minister thus responded to the general rapporteur Jean-François Husson (LR) who, during lively exchanges, was alarmed by a “information retention” of the government, already aware according to him of the slippage to come for 2023 well before the figure was revealed.

Read also“Serious and unfounded” accusations: Bruno Le Maire refutes any concealment of information on the slippage of the deficit

“Not an exact science”

“Deficit forecasts are not an exact science”explained the minister, citing the “very strong economic hazards” which can vary the assessment of corporate tax (IS) revenues and the trajectory of economic growth. If he did not reveal the forecasts of a note from his services dated December 7, 2023 warning of a risk of deficit at 5.2% of GDP, while the examination of the finance bill for 2024 was underway in Parliament, it was because they were “lacunar” concerning the IS or “inaccurate” on state spending, he detailed. “If I had broadcast them, I would have sowed doubt and worry unnecessarily”he argued, with the risk of seeing France’s borrowing interest rate gap increase compared to Germany (“spread”).

It was only in February 2024 that various data concerning taxation, local authority spending or the economic situation became clearer, according to Bruno Le Maire. Shortly after, at the beginning of March, he warned that the deficit would exceed “significantly” the target of 4.9%. The minister, however, recognized “an error in the evaluation of tax returns”especially IS due to the amounts provisioned by companies: “I have contacted all the administrations concerned in my ministry on this subject. A mistake like this cannot be made twice.”

He also said he was in favor of communication “more regular” And “more transparent” between the government and Parliament in matters of public finances. Questioned at length on Tuesday before the same Senate Finance Committee, the Minister Delegate in charge of Public Accounts, Thomas Cazenave, indicated that a mission had been entrusted in April to the General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF) to “give feedback on the forecast circuit” of the government and “make recommendations” on their construction. The conclusions, expected in July, should not be made public, according to the IGF.

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