Good news for French President Emmanuel Macron, who has made respect of the European Union’s budget rules a cornerstone of his aim to restore French fiscal credibility. His country’s public deficit shrank to 2.6% of gross domestic product in 2017.

Not only is this better than expected, but it’s the first time in a decade that France’s public deficit has dropped below the 3% limit.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, Macron has championed belt-tightening measures, including cuts to a popular housing allowance, to make sure the budget deficit would not overshoot the 3% limit. But this was at a high price: his popularity.

However, figures from France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) statistics office showed the better-than-expected improvement in France’s public finances was also in a large part due to stronger tax receipts, boosted by brisker economic growth.

The French tax burden rose to a record of 45.4% of GDP product in 2017 from 44.6% the year before.

Government spending rose by 2.5% and government revenue by 4%, according to INSEE.

In a separate report, Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, quoted the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde as saying on March 26 that eurozone countries should set up a “rainy day fund” to cushion members in the event of economic downturn – an idea floated by Macron last year.

Speaking in Berlin, Lagarde said countries could pay around 0.35% of their annual GDP into a common pot.