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ECONOMY

French economy sees fastest growth in years

France's economy grew 1.1 percent in 2015, its biggest jump in four years which the government hailed as confirmation of a turnaround after years of economic stagnation, official statistics showed on Friday.

French economy sees fastest growth in years
Finance Minister Michel Sapin. Photo: AFP
The eurozone's second-biggest economy posted growth of 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter, down from 0.3 percent in the July-September period, national statistics agency INSEE said.
   
The full-year growth figure, up from 0.2 percent in 2014, was in line with the government's predictions but lagged the 1.5-percent growth expected in the wider eurozone in 2015, according to INSEE.
  
Finance Minister Michel Sapin said the fact that output had continued expanding in the fourth quarter, despite devastating jihadist attacks that left 130 people dead in November and dealt a severe blow to tourism, showed “the French did not give up”.
   
“2015 was the year of the recovery,” Sapin told AFP, predicting that the trend would “intensify in 2016” and spur job creation.
   
In a sign of increased consumer confidence, consumer spending shot up 1.4 percent in 2015, while business investment grew 2 percent year-on-year.
   
The figures provide some rare good news for the Socialist government after further disappointment on the jobs front this week.
   
On Wednesday, the labour ministry announced that unemployment – the scourge of President Francois Hollande's administration – had risen again in December, taking the number of jobless to a new record of 3.59 million.
 

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MONEY

Italy expands €200 payment scheme and introduces public transport bonus

Italy's government will extend its proposed one-time €200 benefit to more people and introduce a €60 public transport payment, Italian media reported on Thursday.

Italy expands €200 payment scheme and introduces public transport bonus

Seasonal workers, domestic and cleaning staff, the self-employed, the unemployed and those on Italy’s ‘citizens’ income’ will be added to the categories of people in Italy eligible for a one-off €200 payment, ministers reportedly announced on Thursday evening.

The one-time bonus, announced earlier this week as part of a package of financial measures designed to offset the rising cost of living, was initially set to be for pensioners and workers on an income of less than €35,000 only.

However the government has now agreed to extend the payment to the additional groups following pressure from Italy’s labour, families, and regional affairs ministers and representatives of the Five Star Movement, according to news agency Ansa.

Pensioners and employees will reportedly receive the €200 benefit between June and July via a direct payment into their pension slip or pay packet.

For other groups, a special fund will be created at the Labour Ministry and the procedures for claiming and distributing payments detailed in an incoming decree, according to the Corriere della Sera news daily.

One new measure introduced at the cabinet meeting on Thursday is the introduction of a one-time €60 public transport bonus for students and workers earning below €35,000. The bonus is reportedly designed to encourage greater use of public transport and will take the form of an e-voucher that can be used when purchasing a bus, train or metro season pass.

Other provisions reportedly proposed in the energy and investment decree (decreto energia e investimenti), which is still being adjusted and amended, include extending energy bill discounts, cutting petrol excise duty and rolling on the deadline to claim Italy’s popular ‘superbonus 110’.

The €14 billion aid package, intended to lessen the economic impact of the war in Ukraine, will “fight the higher cost of living” and is “a temporary situation”, Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said.

The Local will report further details of the payment scheme once they become available following final approval of the decree.

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