French presidential frontrunner Francois Hollande says he will raise taxes on banks, big firms and the rich to help him wipe out the public deficit while pumping more funds into education and state-aided job creation if he wins power in May.
Hollande, tipped in polls to unseat Nicolas Sarkozy and become France's first Socialist president in 17 years, promises to spend 20 billion euros on hiring 60,000 extra schooling staff and police, to help start-ups and small companies and create 150,000 state-aided jobs.
He promises to lean hardest on the country's wealthiest as well as its biggest companies and the banking industry to drum up the lion's share of another 29 billion euros needed to cut the national deficit to zero by the end of 2017.
The vast majority of the French people will not be called on to make additional sacrifices, the 57-year-old said as he unveiled the finer details of his election manifesto in Paris.
If there are sacrifices to be made, and there will be, then it will be for the wealthiest to make them.
Hollande pledged to reduce France's large deficit to zero by end-2017, a year later than Sarkozy's conservative government, with 17 of the 29 billion euros needed coming from company tax and the rest from households, primarily the richest ones.
Corporate profit tax, which averages around 33 percent, is set to rise to 35 percent for the biggest firms. For smaller firms it would be 30 percent and it would drop to 15 percent for the very smallest companies, he said.
NO LESSONS FROM BANKERS
Hollande, who said in a keynote speech on Sunday that the world of finance should be made pay for the financial crisis that triggered a global economic downturn and now a debt crisis, confirmed plans to raise tax on bank profits by 15 percent.
The banking industry will also be forced to draw a line between its speculative financial market operations and more traditional role of using savers' deposits to finance industry and the economy, a measure also in the pipeline in the United States and Britain.
Pierre Moscovici, Hollande's campaign chief, said bankers' pay levels remained indecent and sought during an interview on state radio to head off potential accusations from the industry of scapegoating, saying: We've no lessons to take from them.
The left-winger's manifesto assumes economic growth will be just 0.5 percent this year, compared to the 1.0 percent Sarkozy forecasts, and will then accelerate to 1.7 percent in 2013 and 2 to 2.5 percent in the following three years.
That pans out at growth of 1.6-1.9 percent a year, compared to a history of closer to 1.4 percent per year on average in the decade to 2010, but Hollande said his forecasts were if anything less optimistic than Sarkozy's.
Everything proposed is fully financed, said Hollande, who also promised that, unlike the outgoing president, there would be no change of course over the next five-year term.
Sarkozy started in 2007 by promising to cut taxes only to start repealing them as his term headed into its twilight years. He is expected to announce a rise in sales tax at the weekend.
Hollande's plan to tap the rich for funds takes various forms, including a new upper income tax band of 45 percent, versus 41 percent today, and the scrapping of a string of tax breaks and loopholes that Hollande said were of most benefit to the richest five percent of people in a country of 65 million.
That new upper rate would kick in for earners of upwards of 150,000 euros a year.
More significantly, Hollande committed to more deep-rooted tax reforms that could lead to higher taxation of income the wealthy receive from the sale of shares and other investments over and above annual salaries.
Opinion polls for the two-round presidential ballot on April 22 and May 6 suggest Hollande could beat Sarkozy by as many as 10 percentage points in the runoff, which would make him the first Socialist president since Francois Mitterrand.
Hollande's programme says overall staff levels in the civil service will not rise despite the extra 60,000 jobs he plans, because of limiting hirings elsewhere.
Civil servants are retiring at a rate of about 60,000 a year, said Hollande, who confirmed that he would abandon the current policy of filling only one in two of vacated posts.
On the social front, in addition to backing gay marriage, Hollande pledged to allow euthanasia for the terminally ill.
(Additional reporting by Leigh Thomas; Edited by Richard Meares)