15 Jan 2012

Govt policies defended

9:20 am on 15 January 2012

Prime Minister Francois Fillon of France has defended the government's economic policies following the decision by Standard Poor's to downgrade the credit rating of France.

He said on Saturday the government would push ahead with reforms and debt reduction.

Standard and Poor's said Europe's austerity and budget discipline alone were not sufficient to fight the debt crisis and may become self-defeating.

In a decision announced on Friday, SP lowered its rating of France from AAA to AA+.

The country still has a rating of AAA from the other two main ratings agencies, Moody's and Fitch.

The BBC reports the government is on a communications campaign to tell the French there is no need to panic.

Mr Fillon told a news conference that if France was in the firing line, it was primarily because of its exposure to the crisis in the eurozone.

''This decision constitutes an alert which should not be dramatised any more than it should be underestimated,'' he said.

''This decision was expected, even if one could find it came at the wrong time, given the efforts made by the eurozone, which investors are starting to see.''

It was not government policies that were under attack from the ratings agency, he said, and so those economic policies would be maintained, with the goal of cutting spending and bringing the annual budget back into surplus by 2016.

Italy, Spain, Cyprus, Portugal, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta were also downgraded. Germany kept its AAA rating.