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French government in row over growth forecast

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10:01 CET+01:00
The French government became involved in an embarrassing internal row on Tuesday after the Finance Ministry was forced to deny an earlier statement Foreign Minister that they will reduce its forecast for growth of the economy this year from 0.8 percent.

When asked by a journalist on RTL radio if the figure would be 0.2-0.3 percent, Fabius replied that "it's around this figure", having previously recalled that the forecast had first been 1.2 percent, and then 0.8 percent.

Fabius did not specify whether he meant that the previous forecast of 0.8-percent growth would be cut to 0.2-0.3 percent, or by 0.2-0.3 percentage points which would put the new forecast at 0.5-0.6 percent.

He said: "There was a growth forecast which was to begin with 1.2 percent. Then it was revised to 0.8 percent and now, as across Europe, things don't seem to be going at all well. We will be obliged to revise downwards.

He said: "This must be done in the next few days."

Fabius's comments caught the government's Finance Ministry in Bercy off guard and statements denying  the forecasts were to be revise were quickly dispatched.

"As the Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, has repeated several times, the growth forecast for 2013 in France is not yet set because there is a procedure to comply with European partners," read a statement released from Bercy.

French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll, when asked about Fabius's remarks on Europe 1 radio, was cautious.

"I confirm that, as the prime minister has said, we will be obliged to revise our targets for a simple reason. That is that in 2012 we anticipated weak growth of 0.5 percent, it was zero," he said.

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"Therefore, we do not have this base of growth for a forecast as high as we had anticipated."

Someone else who thinks Fabius might have got it wrong is head of business union Medef, Laurence Parisot, who believes the minister's figure of 0.2 percent growth far too optimistic.

"Based on what we see on the micro-economic level, that all of us experience everyday business, we are not sure of 0.2% growth. We are at best at zero percent and in many sectors we are less than that, " she said.

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