Publié le 04/04/2024

France's rising debt: is it a real problem?

Find the new article by Ydriss ZIANE, Senior Lecturer HDR at the Sorbonne Business School.

In this election year, a figure published on March 26 has sent shockwaves through the economic and political debate. It concerns France's public deficit, which corresponds to the difference between total public spending and the revenue collected by taxes and duties over the course of the same year.

It amounted to 154 billion euros in 2023, or 5.5% of gross domestic product (GDP), which measures all the wealth created by the economy and is close to 2800 billion euros in 2023. The government was forecasting a rise in this deficit to 4.9% of GDP, after 4.8% in 2022, 6.6% in 2021 and 8.9% in 2020, an exceptional year due to the health crisis.

In detail, however, the 5.5% figure for 2023 is not the result of uncontrolled slippage of expenditure relative to revenue, since both components of the deficit are falling in proportion to GDP. However, revenues are slowing much more markedly (51.9% of GDP in 2023, after 54% in 2022) than expenditure (57.3% in 2023, compared with 58.8% in 2022). As a result, the deficit will widen mechanically. [...]