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AB 2000 studies

Alain Boublil Blog


The French bureaucratic sickness

At the eve of the publication of its 4th quarter growth figures, France is confronted with a new major social crisis with the protests of the farmers against their professional life difficulties, the fall of their life level and the many constraints provoked by the State decisions. The reduction of the tax advantages on their fuels which are necessary to the working of their agricultural machines has started a large movement with the jamming of the road infrastructures, especially in the Paris region. In five years, it is the third crisis initiated by measures which show a lack of knowledge of the home ground reality and the many contradictions of a badly coordinated public action.

There has been first the “red caps” crisis started by the instauration of signal porticos above the main national roads in order to make the road transport mode paying tolls. The measure also included Brittany and it is was had generated a powerful mobilization which was successful and which had leaded to its abandon. The region had always benefacted of the gratuity of its highways in order to taking into account its special geographic position and the consequences on transportation costs. The State ignored that reality and was constrained to renounce to this project for the whole France after having spend hundreds of millions for nothing.

Few years after after occurred the “yellow shirts crisis” provoked by the increase of taxes on the diesel fuel. Well in 2009, following the “Grenelle de l’Environment”, the State had encouraged car drivers to choose this fuel under the pretext that it emitted less CO2. It had forgotten that these engines emit fine particles having heavy consequences on the respiratory capacities. The degradation of the air quality in the cities and the quest for new fiscal receipts incited the government to propose the abandon of these advantages. The deep car drivers miscontent, who had been encouraged to buy that kind of vehicles and who were so trapped for many years, forced the State to backtrack.

The agricultural crisis comes from, atop of a legitimate protest against new taxes on fuel, the exasperation generated by the invasion of bureaucratic constrains following the new regulations affecting the operating conditions. We have learned then that a ten of new texts had been published about the control of the hurdles management, that continuous reviews occurred to check the conformity of the breeding activity and that every farmer had to put into fallow a percentage of its lands every year. All that was the purpose of declarations to be sent to the administration and of local controls, making unsupportable the life of farmers.

These crisis are the consequence of a deep sickness which affects as the economy as the French society and which generates the discontent rise, the bureaucracy invasion. It is also at the origin of a paradox. Public expenditures have never reached such a high level and the quality of the public services is not ceasing to deteriorate. It is obvious regarding teaching and health but we could say the same about essential administrative steps as the delivery of identity papers or about the length of judiciary procedures.

France has not the monopoly of the bureaucratic drift because Brussels has brought its contribution in making adopted many measures in the ecologic transition domain. But their application and its control has been left to the States. That explains the many gaps denounced by the French farmers which have affected their competitiveness, adding to the bureaucracy charge the consequences of a competition they estimate as unfair. Some regulations were imposed which much more zealous in France than in other countries.

That bureaucratic culture is not new but it has been strengthened by quite a serial of institutional reforms. The mechanism is simple. The more there are elected persons, the more these ones, at the national level, think they are invested with the mission to produce laws, and at the local level, regulations, in the domains they are in charge. Will then be written the application texts and the several in charge administrations will have the duty to control their application. For twenty years, the production capacity of these texts never stopped to be increased.

There has been first at the National Assembly the instauration of the unique session which has allowed the institution, without any extraordinary session, to staying longer. Then the number of members has been increased, which compared with the numbers of inhabitants is one of the highest among large democracies, and then also the number of senators. As every elected person estimates he has the right to propose a text, along with the projects submitted by every government, we have seen a legislative inflation in the areas which affect the daily life as the food distribution, which generate the discontent of the agricultural world or the housing, which could tomorrow provoke a new social crisis generated by the worries of the teaseholders forced to quit their flats under the pretext that it is poorly isolated.

The regions reform adopted ten years ago has increased the France bureaucratization. Through the mergers between them to create eight “super regions”, without reforming the subdivisions administered by a prefect, the State has been incited to reinforce its control power along with leaving into place the former local administrations. The number of civil servants at every level, instead of being reduced has even increased with the same rhythm that the regulation invasion. The daily life of enterprises as of household in more and more extended areas became even more perturbated. For instance, today, if you wish to add a level to your bookcase, it will be asked to you to fill a form indicating that will not affect the building foundations or the surface of the flat.

The consequences are obviously heavy for the citizen daily life. But they are much more hurting the enterprises competitiveness because all these bureaucratic constrains need a supplementary working time, which is a factor of costs increase. When the enterprise is a simple exploitation as in agriculture, the used time must be added to the productive work and affects the private life of person in charge. One of the causes of the agricultural crisis, if not the most important, is definitely the degradation of the farmers life conditions which has been caused by the creation of all these new bureaucratic constrains.

That is even more sensitive in an open economy because if all the countries do not apply in the same way the rules they decided together and if the transposition of these rules in every country is not rigorously the same, the enterprises which are in the countries where bureaucracy is more developed are the victims of a double worry. They support the costs of the adopted rules and the competition of their foreign homologues where the rules are less scrupulously applied and especially where controls are much less restricting.

This crisis is a powerful indication of the national bureaucratic sickness. The government cannot satisfy itself in order to calm farmers through offering checks or making promises. It must launch institutional reforms which will put an end to the regulation inflation and start an administrative cultural revolution. France and the French people will be doubly the winners: expenses will be lower and we will have at our disposal more competitive enterprises and better public services. The country will also find again a prosperous agriculture and happy peasants.                



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