France unveils multibillion euro investment plan

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Plans unveiled by prime minister Édouard Philippe entail spending billions on education, digitization and the environment.

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The plan launched by French prime minister Édouard Philippe on Monday foresees the government pouring about €57 billion ($67.8 billion) into modernizing France's economy, with a hefty chunk set aside for making it more environmentally-friendly, reports Deutsche Welle.  

Spread over five years, the total spend on the program will be bigger than the €50 billion that President Emmanuel Macron promised at the time of his election in May this year.

Philippe said the fund would have an "amplifier effect" on the new government's reform program, which includes labor law changes designed to bring down the stubbornly high unemployment of 9.5 percent.

"It's about giving power and visibility to our major investment priorities," Philippe told a press conference. "The government has been given the mission of implementing a project to profoundly transform our country," the premier said, adding: "To guarantee €50-57 billion of public investment over the presidential term is good, but I am suspicious of big figures."

"The objective is less the amount of the investments than their nature." About €20 billion will be used to fund a transition towards a greener economy, Philippe said, including €9 billion for making buildings more energy efficient and €7 billion for renewable energy development.

In a bid to cut down on pollution, French drivers will be offered a €1,000 cash incentive to trade in cars made before 1997 - or 2001 for diesel models - for newer and more efficient vehicles. 

According to the plan, the government will spend €9 billion on digitizing the public sector, including by rolling out e-payments for more services and boosting telephone access to doctors to help patients in rural areas.

Read more of this report from Deutsche Welle.

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