29 Jul 2013

French PM criticises New Caledonia banks on fees

5:31 am on 29 July 2013

The French prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, has strongly criticised the banks in New Caledonia for charging exorbitant fees and warned them that they may face stricter regulation.

Speaking during his stay in Noumea, Mr Ayrault said he was given figures which show the fees are up to five times higher than in France.

In May, a 12-day general strike against the high cost of living ended with a government-backed agreement for a price freeze until the end of next year.

Addressing unions and employers, Mr Ayrault said tax exemption provisions would be maintained but urged that this should be channelled into social housing as thousands in the Noumea area live in shantytowns.

During his New Caledonia visit, the French prime minister confirmed the support by Paris for the final phase of the Noumea Accord, which provides for a self-determination referendum between 2014 and 2018.