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Fitch: France response to protests signals tougher debt reduction challenges

France's fiscal consolidation strategy appears "even more challenging" after President Emmanuel Macron announced new fiscal measures Dec. 10 in an attempt to quell protests sparked by discontent over fuel tax hikes, Fitch Ratings said in its latest report.

Macron's new measures include increasing social benefits for low-paid workers with no additional costs for employers, removing social security charges and income tax on overtime and bonuses, and canceling a tax hike on small pensions.

Fitch said it has completed a full analysis of the new measures but noted "substantially increased" risks to its 2019 headline deficit projection of 2.9% of GDP for the country. It added that initial estimates show that the package would produce a gross direct fiscal cost of €8 billion to €10 billion.

The French government aims to deliver 3 percentage points of GDP worth of spending cuts by 2022.

The package, however, does not represent a shift toward broader economic reforms, according to the debt watcher. "We ... think it is too early to conclude that the government will abandon its economic reform agenda," it added.