Hollande confirms government before spending squeeze
PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande announced a minor government reshuffle on Thursday, bringing in four new faces to bolster his team as he prepares for potentially unpopular spending cuts.
Flying into Paris after talks with world leaders in Mexico and Brazil, Hollande unveiled only small tweaks to the team he appointed in mid-May, but stuck to his election promise of gender parity, adding two men and two women.
His cabinet now comprises a total of 38 ministers and junior ministers, exactly half of whom are female.
The four newcomers, all relative unknowns on the political scene, take on newly-created junior roles in government.
But in a sign of the challenges ahead, they join ministries set to prove key in the coming months, adding ammunition as Hollande battles to boost growth, and keep his pledge to cut the budget deficit.
Thierry Repentin was appointed junior minister for labor and labor relations, as backup to existing Labor Minister Michel Sapin, whose role was unchanged.
Meanwhile, Anne-Marie Escoffier, became junior minister for state reform and the public sector, an area set to become a target of spending cuts and reorganization in the months ahead.
Among the tweaks to the existing team, Pierre Moscovici's role as minister for finance and trade was split in two, with Nicole Bricq moving from the environment ministry to become trade minister.
Hollande, a social democrat, has promised to spare France's 65 million people drastic, Greek-style austerity but also hopes to show more than two years into a Europe-wide debt crisis that he is serious about erasing France's large government overdraft.
His plan to get there is to raise tax, mostly on the wealthy, to fund priority policies such as the creation of 60,000 new schooling posts while chipping away at staff levels and spending in other ministries to contain total government costs.
After an election last Sunday where they won enough seats to control the lower house of parliament without relying on others, the government included no members of the hardline, eurosceptic Left Front, made up of communists and other radical leftists.
(Reporting By Brian Love, Vicky Buffery and Gerard Bon, editing by Diana Abdallah)
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