French economy beats growth forecast in first quarter

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French economy beats growth forecast in first quarter
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire attends a debate on the orientation and programming of public finances, at the National Assemby in Paris, on April 29, 2024. (Photo by Alain JOCARD / AFP)

The French economy grew more than expected in the first quarter, official data showed on Tuesday, delivering good news to a government facing scrutiny over the country's huge debt pile.


The eurozone's second biggest economy expanded by 0.2 percent between January and March compared to the previous quarter, according to the INSEE statistics institute, which had previously forecast zero growth.

"To all those who want us to believe that our economy is at a standstill: facts are stubborn. French growth is progressing," said Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire.

"This is a new sign showing the solidity of our economy," he said, adding that the "government's strategy is paying off."

France's budget deficit has overshot government estimates, undermining President Emmanuel Macron's pledge to bring national finances back on track within the next four years.

Ratings agencies have cast doubt on the government's debt reduction target.


The public deficit widened to 5.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2023. The government aims to reduce it to three percent by 2027.

READ MORE: How France's bid to tackle 'wild' budget deficit could impact you

French debt has grown to 110.6 percent of GDP -- the third biggest ratio in the European Union after Greece and Italy.



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