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Foreign investors desert France in 2013: report

As if high unemployment, heavy public debt and an unhappy populace weren't enough, France also saw a double digit drop in foreign investment in 2013, according to a new United Nations report on Wednesday.

Foreign investors desert France in 2013: report
Foreign investment dropped in France a whopping 77 percent in 2013. Photo: Vincepal/Flickr

Signalling yet more bad news for France’s troubled economy, a United Nations report said the country saw a 77 percent decline in direct foreign investment last year, while the global average was an 11 percent increase.

France's results were the worst in the European Union, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade Development report released on Tuesday. 

The decline meant $5.7 billion (€4.2 billion) less invested in France as the country battles stubbornly high unemployment, which at 11.1 percent, is an historic level. Investment around the globe jumped by $1.46 billion (€1.1 billion) during the same time.

France is not alone in its troubles. Fifteen of 27 EU countries were also hit with a decline in investment in 2013, which was part of a global trend of cash flowing away from developed countries.

However, some parts of Europe did well, with foreign investment jumping by a whopping 392 percent in Germany up to $32.2 billion (€ 23.6 billion) and a climb to $37.1 billion (€27.1 billion) in Spain, which was a 37 percent increase, the report said.  

French daily 20 Minutes said the mood for foreign investors turned sour after President François Hollande’s election in 2012. Between fiscal belt tightening and Hollande’s perceived anti-business orientation, the climate scared away investors looking to spend.

Investors might be lured back by portions of Hollande's new policy package called the “responsability pact,” which has floated the idea of cuts in payroll costs for businesses that create jobs.

The plan, although criticized by left wing elements within his own party suggested Hollande was not anti-business as he is often made to be, and led to questions about whether he'd abandoned his socialist roots, a similar accusation that was laid at the feet of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and ex German Chancellor Gerhard Shröder.

Hollande has also called for reforms of the cumbersome French nanny state. In a new year address to civil servants, he said the state machinery was "too heavy, too slow, too expensive," and vowed to focus on cutting expenditure

"We will try and do this everywhere, or wherever possible," he said, pledging to make 50 billion euros (70 billion dollars) in savings by 2017. "Everyone must do their bit."

France has already unveiled a cost-cutting belt-tightening budget for 2014 that aims to bring down the public deficit from the current level of 4.1 percent to 3.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) through spending cuts totalling €15 billion and new taxes.

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Timbre fiscal: Everything you need to know about France’s finance stamps

If you're doing a French admin task, you might be asked to provide a 'timbre fiscale' - here's what these are and how to get them.

Timbre fiscal: Everything you need to know about France's finance stamps

In France, you can buy  a very particular kind of stamp to cover the cost of a titre de séjour, or French passport, to pay your taxes, get an ID card if you’re eligible, or pay for your driving licence.

Basically a timbre fiscale is a way of paying a fee to the government, and some online processes – such as the tax offices – now have the more modern method of a bank transfer or card payment.

However there are plenty of official tasks that still demand a timbre fiscale.

In the pre-internet days, this was a way of sending money safely and securely to the government and involved an actual physical stamp – you bought stamps to the value of the money you owned, stuck them onto a card and posted them to government office.

They could be used for anything from paying your taxes to fees for administrative processes like getting a new passport or residency card.

These days the stamps are digital. You will receive, instead, either a pdf document with a QR code that can be scanned from a phone or tablet, or an SMS with a unique 16-digit figure. Both will be accepted by the agency you are dealing with.

Once you have the code you need, you can add this to any online process that requires timbre fiscaux (the plural) and that will complete your dossier.

You can buy them from a properly equipped tabac, at your nearest trésorerie, or online

Paper stamps remain available in France’s overseas départements, but have been gradually phased out in mainland France.

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