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France plays reform card

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - 02:07

France's Socialist government puts forward a reform bill which is crucial for avoiding EU sanctions. But as David Pollard reports, it risks being watered down by lawmakers angry with President Hollande's deregulation drive, which includes letting shops open more on Sundays.

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Croissance. That's not those tasty French breakfast rolls being referred to here, but something France needs even more. Growth. Prime minister Manuel Valls hopes a seven-point bill of new measures may serve it up. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH PRIME MINISTER, MANUEL VALLS, SAYING: "There is no reason to doubt either the ambitious nature of this law from from start to finish, nor our ability to convince parliament." It's become old currency amongst investors that France is the sick man of Europe. The new bill prescribes a mix of medicines. First: Sunday trading laws would be liberalised. Shops allowed to open for a dozen Sundays year, up from five - with longer hours in tourist hotspots. It's likely to raise the ire of left-wingers in the ruling Socialist Party when the bill goes before parliament early next year. Consumers are broadly favourable - but not all. (SOUNDBITE) (French) CUSTOMER CHAVELITA GIGON SAYING: "I am not in favour of it, I think we have other things to do than going to stores on Sundays." Among other measures: employee share ownership, sell-offs of some state shareholdings - and reform of the legal profession. That too is coming in for some fierce opposition from members themselves. But the Bank of France forecasts just 0.1 percent growth in the fourth quarter of this year. Latest data shows a worse-than-expected 0.8 percent drop in French industrial output in October. There are very few investors who don't see reforms as a must - and not just for France. Dennis de Jong of UFX. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DENNIS DE JONG, MANAGING DIRECTOR, UFX, SAYING: ''They are totally long overdue and France is a sleeping giant and a ticking bomb, to be honest. They need to put their reform through, otherwise there'll be difficult times ahead for Europe.'' The European Commission is to decide whether to sanction France for missing its budget targets. That's due in March. Valls hopes the new package might swing the argument in favour of a reprieve. And while some Socialist MPs may oppose the measures, the public are behind them - nearly 60 percent of them, according to a latest poll.

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France plays reform card

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - 02:07