The High Council of Public Finances adopted the following opinion on the second amending budget bill for 2022 after deliberating during its meeting of 25 October 2022.
The High Council considers that the Government's forecasts for growth (+2.7%), inflation (+5.3%) and wage bill growth (+8.6% in the market sectors) for 2022, unchanged from those in the 2023 Budget Bill, are credible in the light of the information available to it at the time this opinion was written.
However, the High Council regrets that, contrary to the practice of previous years, the timetable for referrals led it to issue its opinion the day before the publication by Insee of the national accounts for the third quarter, since these would have been an important piece of information for assessing the Government's forecasts, in accordance with the mandate given to the High Council by the organic legislator.
The Government's forecast of a public balance for 2022 of -4.9 points of GDP, which is an improvement of one tenth of a point of GDP compared to the forecast in the 2023 Budget Bill, is plausible. However, it is affected by significant uncertainties, both in terms of expenditure and revenue (particularly regarding the cost of the energy prices cap, public service charges for energy and corporate tax revenue).
The structural balance would be -3.6 points of GDP using the level of potential GDP of the now obsolete Public Finance Programming Law 2018-2022, and -4.2 points of GDP using the new estimates of potential GDP presented in the Public Finance Programming Law for 2023-2027. The gap for 2022 with the structural balance forecast in the 2018-2022 Public Finance Programming Law (-0.8 points of GDP), as well as with the medium-term objective that France has set itself (-0.4 points of GDP), would thus be high. This difference does not only reflect the impact of the health crisis on potential GDP and on emergency and then recovery spending, but also the increase in some spending not directly linked to this crisis.
The ratio of public debt to GDP is expected to fall by 1.3 percentage points in 2022, thanks to the still strong economic growth in 2022, which affects the denominator, and to increased mobilisation of the State's cash flow, which reduces the need to issue new debt. However, France will still be among the most indebted countries in the euro area in 2022. The High Council reminds that a return to debt levels that ensure France has sufficient fiscal space is necessary to be able to cope with macroeconomic or financial shocks and public investment needs. This requires a collective effort based on controlling expenditure and seeking greater efficiency.