Michel Sapin made the gaffe in a radio interview, which left French President Francois Hollande battling to undo the potential reputational damage.
“There is a state but it is a totally bankrupt state,” Mr Sapin said. “That is why we had to put a deficit reduction plan in place, and nothing should make us turn away from that objective.”
The comments came as President Hollande attempts to improve the image of the French economy after pledging to reduce the country’s deficit by cutting spending by €60bn (£51.5bn) over the next five years and increasing taxes by €20bn.
Data from Banque de France showed earlier this month that a flight of capital has already left the country amid concerns that France’s Socialist leader intends to soak the rich and businesses. The actor Gérard Depardieu has renounced his French citizenship and decamped to Russia in protest, while David Cameron said Britain will “roll out the red carpet” to attract wealthy individuals.
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