World Bulletin / News Desk
France's Socialist-dominated parliament voted on Thursday to end tax breaks on overtime work and raise wealth tax, abolishing two cornerstones of the economic policy conservative former president Nicolas Sarkozy pursued over the past five years.
The measures were in a budget bill that France's first left-wing government in a decade presented to the National Assembly after taking power following Francois Hollande's presidential election victory in May.
In one vote, the lower house of parliament endorsed plans to scrap the tax-free status of overtime hours from August onwards, unstitching tax breaks that symbolised the "work more, earn more" slogan which swept Sarkozy to power in 2007.
The vote, first scheduled for Wednesday, was delayed until a few hours before dawn on Thursday by bickering between Socialist supporters and centre-right opponents who say the measure will damage people's spending power.
Laurent Wauquiez, a centre-right politician who was a member of Sarkozy's government, denounced what he called a "rip-off" by Hollande's Socialists, saying the tax changes would knock 5-7 percent off the incomes of more than 9.5 million people in France, where the working population is roughly 25 million.
Hitting back, government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the tax breaks Sarkozy put in place had encouraged firms to pay overtime instead of hiring, costing the economy anything between 40,000 and 80,000 jobs and costing the state a total of 25 billion euros ($30.6 billion).
"It cost 5 billion euros a year without doing much for economic activity and growth," she told France Info radio.
Hollande won power on pledges to reboot the economy and get rid of a large deficit without subjecting voters to Greek-style austerity, primarily by proposing a tax-and-spend programme that he says will hit the rich harder.
The second measure approved in a National Assembly vote was an emergency increase in wealth tax designed to generate an extra 2.3 billion euros for the cash-strapped government pending fuller legislation next year to repeal tax reductions that Sarkozy introduced in 2011.
The overtime and wealth tax measures are key elements of a bill that revises the 2012 budget as Hollande and his government seek to deliver on European promises to cut France's public deficit to 4.5 percent of GDP this year from 5.2 percent last year, and to 3 percent of GDP in 2013.
Among other changes lawmakers backed were a 3 percent tax at source on cash dividend payouts by companies, in line with a goal of encouraging re-investment of profits, and a hefty reduction in value of inheritances that benefit from automatic tax exemption, to 100,000 euros from 159,000.
France reduced the legal working week from 39 to 35 hours just over a decade ago when a Socialist government was last in power, arguing that the move would encourage hiring. Without scrapping it, Sarkozy eased the strictures of the law by easing welfare levies and income tax on overtime hours.
High labour costs are back in the headlines following the announcement of 8,000 layoffs by carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen, which has kept a far larger portion of its production in France while rivals such as Renault shifted much of it to eastern Europe.
Vallaud-Belkacem defended the abolition of Sarkozy's tax breaks, saying the costly measure for the state had mostly helped people who already had jobs but increased the number of jobless people, which is at its highest level since 1999.
Russia's oil output stands at over 10 million barrels per day, the world's largest, but it needs new sources of crude oil, including hard-to-recover deposits and the Arctic, to sustain this level
The strike at Yue Yuen is not just one of China's biggest in recent years, it's also more clearly driven by workers' fears that they have been scammed by an opaque and convoluted welfare payment system.
When the system is in place citizens will be able to buy a limited amount of subsidised fuel, and will have to pay a normal, market price for any extra quantities.
Production in Upper Nile state's Paloch oilfields, where output has not been hampered by the conflict, stood at 159,000 barrels per day this week.
Dragomir Stoynev accused fellow European Union members of a politically-motivated attempt to scupper the project, and urged the bloc to understand the effect that doing so would have on its members.
The drops have come mainly because Japan did not take any cargoes in March and South Korea is not scheduled to take any shipments in April, according to the tanker data.
Japan's finance ministry and central bank have declined to comment on the payments.
But a survey shows that most people believe inflation is speeding up and could surpass 37 percent this year.
A fifth payment of $450 million was due on April 15, contingent on Iran having diluted half of its most sensitive stockpile of nuclear materials
The year-on-year inflation rate in the 18 countries sharing the euro was 0.5 percent in March against 0.7 percent in February, the European Union's statistics office Eurostat said.
Pushed by higher food and shelter costs, the consumer price index rose in March.
Country of origin labels are currently voluntary in the European Union and many of the bloc's governments want to keep it that way
While reverse flows would help cushion the effects of a Russian export cut during mild-demand summer months, analysts say they would not be sufficient in winter.
The tanker, Aegean Dignity, is due to take its load to Italy, the NOC quoted an oil official as saying in a statement on its website
TAP aims at enhancing the security of natural gas supply as well as diversification of gas supplies for the European markets.