PARIS Nov 13 President Francois Hollande,
grappling a sickly economy and dismal ratings, urged the French
public on Tuesday to judge him on his long-term success in
reviving the country's ailing industry and halting a 17-month
rise in unemployment.
Stressing that low French bond yields showed that markets
believed his economic policies were credible, Hollande said a
move to fund tax rebates for companies with small rises in sales
tax should bolster output while preserving consumer spending.
"Decline is not our destiny," the Socialist president told a
news conference to mark his first six months in office.
"I can understand the doubts that have been expressed. The
only valid question in my eyes is not the state of public
opinion today but the state of France in five years' time."
Hollande said he would not be swayed from his goal of
reviving the economy in two years by gloomy public opinion, as
polls give him approval ratings as low as 36 percent, down from
above 60 percent when he took power in May.
"The recovery will take time but I believe we can succeed. I
want young people to be living better in five years' time."
Turning around France's stalled economy and closing a
competitiveness gap with Germany, which is running a huge trade
surplus as France sinks deeper into deficit, has become
Hollande's biggest challenge.
He called on trade unions and employers to strike a
"historic compromise" to reform labour contracts to boost
employment, saying the government would legislate if they failed
to reach a deal but he would prefer to turn an agreement reached
through negotiations into law.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault will defend the Socialist
government's policies in a meeting on Thursday with German
Chancellor Angela Merkel following reports that Berlin is
concerned France is not doing enough to revive its economy.