French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday proposed a series of measures, including a "social investment fund" of up to 3 billion euros (3.78 billion dollars) to help low-paid workers, the young and the unemployed struggle through the economic crisis, his office said, dpa reported. Sarkozy made the proposals during a meeting - which was dubbed a social summit - with trade union leaders and employers' representatives in Paris. The state would contribute half the money, or up to 1.5 billion euros, to the investment fund, Sarkozy said. Other proposals in the package included an increase in unemployment payments and a one-time payment of 400 to 500 euros to a certain category of jobless. The package would cost the government 1.65 to 2.65 billion euros, Sarkozy said. In addition, he named a person to examine the possibility of imposing on French companies the obligation to share their profits more equitably with their employees. Sarkozy called the meeting after a general strike on January 29 and widespread street protests demonstrations that same day to demand aid for small and medium-sized companies and measures to increase purchasing power. Union leaders have called another "day of action" for March 19, putting pressure on the French president to head off a mass social movement that could threaten the stability of his government. Sarkozy also needed to act in order to restore confidence in his ability to deal with the economic crisis. In a poll published Wednesday in the online edition of the weekly Le Point, nearly six of 10 respondents said the measures he has so far undertaken "do not go in the right direction." However, after handing generous multi-billion-euro aid packages to the French banking sector and the auto industry, Sarkozy is limited in the amount of money he can use to ease social tensions. On Wednesday, the European Union's executive warned France and five other member nations that they were going too deeply into debt in their efforts to ward off recession. Under EU rules, national governments are allowed to run a budget deficit of up to 3 per cent of gross national product (GDP). States which violate the rules too flagrantly can ultimately face a fine. According to European Commission figures, France ran a budget deficit of 3.2 per cent of GDP in 2008, and is projected to reach 5.4 per cent this year. Sarkozy is scheduled to appear on national television Wednesday evening to discuss the measures that have been agreed with unions and employers.
Sarkozy proposes social investment fund, tax relief
18 February 2009 21:49 (UTC+04:00)