Surplus possible: minister
The budget should return to surplus in 2014 even as a drop in tax revenue forced the government to give up a pledge to balance its books in the current fiscal year, Trade Minister Craig Emerson said. The original target of a surplus in the fiscal year ending June next year could be achieved if positive signs around household spending continue through the rest of the year, Emerson said in an interview on Sky News television yesterday. Treasurer Wayne Swan said on Thursday the government was unlikely to have a surplus because of a fall in tax revenues. “There are good things going on in the economy,” Emerson said, citing prospects of improving performance for car sales, the housing market and the retail industry.
EC to propose deficit delays
The European Commission could propose giving Spain, France and several other eurozone states more time to cut their public deficits below the target limit of 3 percent of GDP, El Pais said on Saturday.Citing senior Spanish and EU sources, the Madrid-based daily said France could get an extra year, allowing it to narrow its fiscal gap by 2014, while Spain would be given one or two more years beyond that date. France said on Saturday that it would maintain its deficit-reduction goal for next year regardless of any softer line from Brussels.
Burger King returns
For the first time in 15 years, Burger King Corp served its flame-grilled Whoppers in France, a country better known for its gastronomy than fast food. Burger King Worldwide opened a restaurant at Marseille airport on Saturday, returning to France thanks to an agreement with Autogrill, which operates restaurants at highway service stations. The burger chain, the world’s second-biggest behind McDonald’s Corp, closed its 39 French restaurants in 1997, because they were not profitable. Burger King says their next restaurant is planned at a highway service station in Champagne in the first half of next year.
Swiss accounts to be probed
Prosecutors will investigate 2,000 holders of HSBC bank accounts in Switzerland for suspected tax evasion, state broadcaster Net said on Saturday. The Finance Ministry said on Friday that it had received the list, which was already leaked in 2010 by an HSBC employee and passed on to Greece by France’s then-finance minister Christine Lagarde, the current head of the IMF. Authorities had claimed that the list was illegally obtained and hence could not be used in the battle against tax evasion. However, mounting anger against a new round of austerity cuts, imposed by the nation’s international creditors, put pressure on the government to seek the list.
Growth forecasts slashed
The government slashed its economic growth forecasts late last week, becoming the third Nordic country to do so in a move that highlights the troubled eurozone’s impact on its trading partners. The government cut its GDP projection for next year to 1.1 percent, compared with a 2.7 percent estimate in September. This year it sees the economy growing by just 0.9 percent, compared with an earlier forecast of 1.6 percent. The center-right government, which has been in power since 2006, said it now believes unemployment will rise next year to 8.2 percent from an average rate of 7.7 percent this year.