The new general rapporteur for the Budget, Laurent Saint-Martin, thinks that there are sources of savings in public spending. He calls for taking his time before considering further tax cuts. Emilie Cariou, the group’s coordinator, believes that the objective must now be to “contain” the deficit.

Laurent Saint-Martin will be elected this Wednesday to the strategic position of general rapporteur for the Budget.

The parliamentary majority promises a change in continuity. This Wednesday, the Finance Committee of the National Assembly sees the handover between Joël Giraud and Laurent Saint-Martin in the strategic position of general rapporteur for the budget. In the opinion of Eric Woerth (LR), the two LREM deputies are “Both attached to budgetary seriousness”. “I will be the watchdog of the government’s commitments in terms of the trajectory of public finances”, assures Laurent Saint-Martin.

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But what budgetary commitments are we talking about? With the crisis of the “yellow vests” and the billions poured out to put out the social fire, the ambitions had already been significantly lowered, with a debt expected to drop very slightly over the five-year term and an expected deficit of 1.5% of GDP in 2022, far from the initial promises. A new public finance programming law is expected in the spring, and the equation promises to be even more complicated with the multiple promises made since the start of the conflict over pension reform. “I am in favor of upgrading the salaries of teachers, but that means that we will have to find savings opposite to stay the course”, emphasizes Laurent Saint-Martin.

Efforts at Bercy

The latter believes that there is still room for maneuver to reduce public spending. “Efforts are still possible at Bercy and in the tax administration, and I think that certain ministries have not yet been very aggressive on this issue since the start of the five-year term. The example of what has been done on housing can be reproduced elsewhere “, assures the deputy of Val de Marne. A promise that leaves Eric Woerth skeptical. “Savings are always promised for the end of the five-year term, and never realized”, mocks the chairman of the Assembly’s finance committee.

With these constraints, continuing to reduce the deficit promises to be difficult. “We must get out of the debate around the deficit ratio expressed as a percentage of GDP, and focus instead on the evolution of debt or expenditure”, judge Laurent Saint-Martin.

Emilie Cariou, the coordinator of the En Marche group within the Assembly's Finance Committee, calls for “taking into account the unprecedented social crisis” in the management of public finances.

Emilie Cariou, the coordinator of the En Marche group within the Assembly’s Finance Committee, calls for “taking into account the unprecedented social crisis” in the management of public finances.AFP

Even more frank, Emilie Cariou, the coordinator of the En Marche group within the Finance Committee, calls for “Take into account the unprecedented social crisis”. “In this context, our objective must be at least to contain the deficit, in any case to avoid widening it as between 2007 and 2012”, believes the member of the Meuse. She believes that “The reduction in public spending does not necessarily have to involve the cuts of civil servant posts, whose presence is necessary at the local level”. She nevertheless believes that savings are possible by targeting the senior civil service and organizational charts where there are too many executives, by reviewing the functioning of the agencies or by taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by digitization.

Doubts about production taxes

Regarding taxes, the effort of the executive has already been substantial over the first three years of the five-year term, with a drop of nearly 30 billion in compulsory levies. “At half-time of the five-year term, it is necessary to take stock of what has already been initiated before considering other measures. Regarding production taxes, I am a priori in favor of it, but we can only do it up to the level of savings of structures that have been thought through ”, emphasizes Laurent Saint-Martin.

For Emilie Cariou, “We must first take stock of the many tax cuts already recorded for companies before acceding to new demands from employers on production taxes”.