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No, really ... big news out of France is the $68 billion austerity-like spending cut


French President François Hollande at his Tuesday presss conference. (Courtesy of the Elysée)

Looks like 2014 is shaping up to be a difficult year for French President François Hollande.

After a not-so-great 2013, Hollande enters janvier as one of the least popular leaders in French modern history, his private affairs have been publicized all over the globe, his long-term girlfriend is in the hospital and most importantly, the socialist leader can't seem to fix the sputtering French economy.

France has been in serious financial trouble for the past couple of years. It has recently experienced two painful recessions, high unemployment and economic growth for 2014 is expected to be negligible, only 0.2 per cent. When he was first elected in 2012, economists warned his first order of business was to reform antiquated French labour laws, reduce nanny state spending and come up with a way to bring investment to France.

Well, suffice it to say that didn't really happen. France is Europe's second largest economy, behind Germany's. Financial crisis in the heart of the European breadbasket does not bode well for both France and the recovery of the European Union, which finds itself still struggling after the 2008 global market meltdown.

Now, Hollande says in order to repair the economy, he'll reduce public spending by $68 billion - an austerity-esque move, exactly the type he campaigned against.

But the last 10 years of economic decline must be fixed, Hollande told reporters at the Elysée  Palace in Paris. And the next 10 years belong to France, he said. Hollande added he will never give up on  European unity or the euro common currency.

Hollande said he will set up a public expenditure council to oversee how money is spent and where the $68 billion in trims can be made. Everything will be examined, nothing is sacred.

As for his personal woes, Hollande told reporters to stay tuned for updates.

"Everyone in their personal life can encounter difficulties. They are tough moments. But I have one principle: Private matters should be treated in private. This is neither the time nor the moment to do this," he said, according to the Guardian.

Some say that time and moment may be right before his trip to the United States next month. 

Tanya Talaga is the Star's global economics reporter. Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga




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