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Business

France unveils multibillion euro investment plan

French PM Edouard Philippe has revealed details of a major investment plan aimed at bolstering his country's languid economy. It foresees spending billions on education, digitization and the environment, among others.

The plan launched by French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Monday foresees the government pouring about €57 billion ($67.8 billion) into modernizing France's economy, with a hefty chunk set aside for making it more environmentally-friendly.     

Spread over five years, the total spend on the program will be bigger than the €50 billion that President Emmanuel Macron promised at the time of his election in May this year.

Philippe said the fund would have an "amplifier effect" on the new government's reform program, which includes labor law changes designed to bring down the stubbornly high unemployment of 9.5 percent.

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"It's about giving power and visibility to our major investment priorities," Philippe told a press conference. "The government has been given the mission of implementing a project to profoundly transform our country," the premier said, adding: "To guarantee €50-57 billion of public investment over the presidential term is good, but I am suspicious of big figures."

"The objective is less the amount of the investments than their nature." About €20 billion will be used to fund a transition towards a greener economy, Philippe said, including €9 billion for making buildings more energy efficient and €7 billion for renewable energy development.

In a bid to cut down on pollution, French drivers will be offered a €1,000 cash incentive to trade in cars made before 1997 - or 2001 for diesel models - for newer and more efficient vehicles. According to the plan, the government will spend €9 billion on digitizing the public sector, including by rolling out e-payments for more services and boosting telephone access to doctors to help patients in rural areas.

Tackling joblessness

Some €15 billion has been set aside for training and education, including training one million people aged over 25 for new careers as Macron's government seeks to tackle long-term unemployment.

In 2017, more than one million people over the age of 26 were looking for work and another one million young people under 26 were not in education, training or employment, Philippe pointed out. Dealing with that was urgent and would be the "second big stage in the social reforms" of Macron's presidency, after reforms to the country's labor code signed into law on Friday, Philippe said.

The PM also noted that some €8.1 billion will be spent on supporting science in French universities and strengthening scientific research in both the public and private sectors.

Philippe said some of the funding would come from existing ministerial budgets and some from the European Investment Bank. The launch comes as Macron's government prepares to announce the first budget of his five-year term on Wednesday.

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sri/dk (dpa, AFP)

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