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French economy may shrink 2.5 percent

FRENCH Prime Minister Francois Fillon said today it was "probable" that France's economy will shrink by 2.5 percent this year as the economy suffers its worst crisis in decades.

The estimate is gloomier than the latest official forecast in the 2009 budget - which sees a 1.5 percent contraction and has been revised twice as economic indicators worsen.

The new forecast also comes as French workers have grown increasingly radical in their protests against recession-related layoffs and cutbacks in recent weeks, holding managers hostage and blocking production at factories.

"It is certain that this year, 2009, will be a year of strong recession," Fillon said on France-Inter radio Wednesday, adding that "2.5 is a figure that today is probable."

The latest government figures show France's economy is shrinking at its fastest pace in more than 30 years.

Fillon said the government is forecasting a recovery next year, but said it "will undoubtedly be slow."

Fillon insisted, however, that France's recession would be "less strong in our country than in our neighbors'."

He said the government remains opposed to tax hikes, saying that would plunge the country deeper into crisis.

Already, France will double its deficit in 2009 and "considerably" boost its debt, he said. The French government has said that this year it will violate EU rules on keeping deficits under 3 percent, and Fillon has abandoned plans to balance the budget by 2012 because of the crisis.


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