© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire attends a news conference for the launching of the 2020 income tax campaign at the Bercy Finance Ministry in Paris, France, April 8, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s economy will return to pre-COVID 19 levels by the first quarter of 2022, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told weekly JDD, as a return of spending and investments lay the ground for a recovery.

Le Maire, who reaffirmed his target of 5% economic growth for France this year, said the recent surge in credit card payments, rising holiday season bookings and soaring clothing purchases showed that France was quickly returning to growth.

The minister said the country’s debt, which ballooned during the pandemic to fund support measures, should begin to stabilize in 2025 and then decrease. He said he expected the public deficit to be below 3% of gross domestic product in 2027.

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