It also said a lack of majority for Macron’s government at the National Assembly and social unrest increase risks that economic overhauls will be postponed or watered down. Image Credit: Reuters

Paris: The outlook on France’s credit rating was reduced to negative from stable by Scope Ratings, raising questions about President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to spur growth and reduce a crisis-swollen debt burden.

The Europe-based credit rating firm said it changed the outlook on its AA rating due to weakening public finances and implementation risks to the agenda for economic reforms.

The change comes after Fitch Ratings cut France to AA- from AA last month, also flagging high government debt and risks that political deadlock after the protests over pension reform could hamper future economic overhauls.

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The rating actions are sharpening focus on challenges France faces to pare back a budget deficit that ballooned during Covid pandemic and has only decreased slowly as the government spent vast sums limiting energy prices.

While Scope is not among the major rating firms, it is recognized by the European Securities and Markets Authority and has applied for recognition in the European Central Bank’s credit assessment framework.

Standard & Poor’s could also take rating action on France a week from now, according to its calendar.

The French government has outlined a long-term plan to rein in the deficit and put debt on a downward path that relies on boosting economic growth, winding down fiscal support to mitigate high energy prices, and containing the increase in spending below inflation.

But the country’s public finance watchdog, HCFP, has cautioned that plans rely on growth estimates that “seem optimistic” and inflation forecasts that appear to be somewhat under-estimated.

Scope said it could downgrade France if the public debt ratio steadily increased due to inadequate fiscal consolidation, or if the growth outlook significantly deteriorated.

France faces high expenditure pressures and a rising interest rate burden, while it also has an “uneven track record of fiscal consolidation,” Scope said.