France

   

Executive Capacity

#14
Key Findings
As the Macron administration acts with more discipline than predecessors, France falls into the upper-middle ranks (rank 14) in terms of executive capacity. Its score in this area has improved by 0.3 points since 2014.

The powerful presidential and prime ministerial offices supervise and control policymaking and interministerial coordination. Cabinet and communication cohesion have improved relative to earlier administrations. A think tank connected to the prime minister’s office has developed into a strategic-planning and policy-evaluation body.

The Macron administration initially sought intensive public consultations while still making decisions in a top-down manner. Following strong criticism and the eruption of the “yellow vests” protests, it is now proceeding more cautiously. A distrust of the media and a lack of ministerial coordination has led to poor public-communication capabilities.

Despite its reactions to the “yellow vests,” the current government has generally shown more courage than predecessors in pushing through and implementing policies and regulations that have sparked protest. The administration has an avowedly pro-EU and global approach, but Macron has found it difficult to win support from elsewhere in the EU for his reform plans.

Strategic Capacity

#30

How much influence do strategic planning units and bodies have on government decision-making?

10
 9

Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions, and they exercise strong influence on government decision-making.
 8
 7
 6


Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Their influence on government decision-making is systematic but limited in issue scope or depth of impact.
 5
 4
 3


Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Occasionally, they exert some influence on government decision-making.
 2
 1

In practice, there are no units and bodies taking a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions.
Strategic Planning
5
French governments commonly refer to ad hoc committees tasked with providing information on crucial issues. In some cases, a report is requested from a single individual. Committee members are mainly high-level civil servants, former or active politicians and academics, and often are chosen on the basis of their sympathy to the government in office at the time. Some reports are made public but others remain unpublished, in particular when the report’s proposals appear too provocative to be accepted by social partners. This situation raises the concern that opportunism may prevail over real strategic planning.

The only bodies that take a long-term view in terms of strategic planning are bureaucratic departments such as those that are part of the finance or foreign affairs ministries. The committee of economic advisers attached to the prime minister’s office produces reports on its own initiative or at the office’s request. Its impact on actual policymaking is limited, however.

France Stratégie, an interesting think tank attached to the prime minister, has recently developed into a body of strategic planning and policy evaluation, although its impact on governmental policy is uncertain for the time being. OECD reports are not part of national strategic planning, but they are rather influential as they compare countries’ performances and capacities to adjust to future challenges.

Does the government regularly take into account advice from non-governmental experts during decision-making?

10
 9

In almost all cases, the government transparently consults with non-governmental experts in the early stages of government decision-making.
 8
 7
 6


For major political projects, the government transparently consults with non-governmental experts in the early stages of government decision-making.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, the government transparently consults with non-governmental experts in the early stages of government decision-making.
 2
 1

The government does not consult with non-governmental experts, or existing consultations lack transparency entirely and/or are exclusively pro forma.
Expert Advice
4
In contrast to some other European countries, the French government does not rely heavily on academic advice, even though the President’s Office and the Prime Minister’s Office frequently consult economists, and outstanding non-governmental academics may be chosen to sit on national reflection councils covering various policy fields (e.g., integration and education). But the influence of academics is not comparable to what can be found in many other political settings. High-level civil servants tend to consider themselves self-sufficient. Once the government has chosen a policy strategy, it tends to stick to it without significant discussion over the appropriateness or effectiveness of choices made. There is nothing comparable in France to the economic institutes in Germany, for example, the opinions of which serve to guide the government and offer a platform for public debates. A telling example of this indifference to experts is the decision (in reaction to the modest ranking of French universities in international rankings) to merge the universities of a city or region and expect that larger universities would produce better results. This was decision was taken in spite of the opposition of the academic community and counter to the evidence provided by, for instance, the American or British university system. The results have been, as predictable, have been rather disappointing and several bureaucratic monsters have been born.

Interministerial Coordination

#11

Does the government office / prime minister’s office (GO / PMO) have the expertise to evaluate ministerial draft bills according to the government’s priorities?

10
 9

The GO / PMO provides regular, independent evaluations of draft bills for the cabinet / prime minister. These assessments are guided exclusively by the government’s priorities.
 8
 7
 6


The GO / PMO evaluates most draft bills according to the government’s priorities.
 5
 4
 3


The GO / PMO can rely on some sectoral policy expertise but does not evaluate draft bills.
 2
 1

The GO / PMO does not have any sectoral policy expertise. Its role is limited to collecting, registering and circulating documents submitted for cabinet meetings.
GO Expertise
7
There are three main loci of policy evaluation once a policy proposal has been forwarded to the prime minister. The first is the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the second is the President’s Office, and the third, in cases of legislation or regulation, the Council of State. This hierarchical organization gives the prime minister the option of modifying ministers’ draft bills. In important cases, this steering function is located in the President’s Office. Both the president and the prime minister appoint civil servants from all ministries as policy advisers for every sector. All ministerial domains are covered. Several hundred people are involved in government steering, checking, controlling and advising functions.

However, it would probably be overstated to consider these various checks a method of evaluation. The PMO mainly coordinates and arbitrates between ministries, takes into consideration opinions and criticisms from involved interests and from the majority coalition, and balances political benefits and risks. The President’s Office does more or less the same in coordination with the PMO. More than offering a thorough policy evaluation, these two institutions serve as a place where the ultimate arbitrations between bureaucrats, party activists and vested interests are made.

To what extent do line ministries involve the government office/prime minister’s office in the preparation of policy proposals?

10
 9

There are inter-related capacities for coordination between GO/PMO and line ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The GO/PMO is regularly briefed on new developments affecting the preparation of policy proposals.
 5
 4
 3


Consultation is rather formal and focuses on technical and drafting issues.
 2
 1

Consultation occurs only after proposals are fully drafted as laws.
Line Ministries
9
Line ministers have to inform the prime minister of all their projects. Strong discipline, even at the public communication level, is imposed, and this rule is reinforced by the attitude of the media, which tend to cover any slight policy difference as the expression of political tension or party divergence. Not only the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) oversees the policy process but also his cabinet assistants, in each area, supervise, liaise and coordinate with their counterparts in line ministries about the content, timing and political sequences of a project. The secretary-general of the PMO (as well as his counterpart at the Elysée) operates in the shadow, but he is one of the most powerful actors within that machinery. He can step in if the coordination or control process at that level has failed to stem the expression of differences within the government. Traditionally the secretary-general is a member of the Conseil d’État and – in spite of the fact that he could be fired at any time for any reason – there is a tradition of continuity and stability beyond the fluctuation and vagaries of political life. It has to be added that given the presidential character of the Fifth Republic, the same type of control is exerted by the President’s Office in coordination with the PMO. In practice, the two general secretaries are the most powerful civil servants whose opinions might prevail on ministry choices.

How effectively do ministerial or cabinet committees coordinate cabinet proposals?

10
 9

The vast majority of cabinet proposals are reviewed and coordinated first by committees.
 8
 7
 6


Most cabinet proposals are reviewed and coordinated by committees, in particular proposals of political or strategic importance.
 5
 4
 3


There is little review or coordination of cabinet proposals by committees.
 2
 1

There is no review or coordination of cabinet proposals by committees. Or: There is no ministerial or cabinet committee.
Cabinet Committees
8
Coordination is strong within the French government, and is in the hands of the PMO and the President’s Office, which constantly liaise and decide on every issue. Coordination takes place at several levels. First at the level of specialized civil servants who work as political appointees in the PMO (members of the cabinet, that is political appointees belonging to the staff of the prime minister), then in meetings chaired by the secretary-general and finally by the prime minister himself, in case of permanent conflicts between ministers or over important issues. In many instances, conflicts pit the powerful ministers of budget or finance against other ministries. Appeals to the prime minister require either a powerful convincing argument or that the appealing party is a key member of the government coalition, as it is understood that the prime minister should not be bothered by anything but the highest-level issues. A powerful instrument in the hands of the prime minister is his capacity to decide which texts will be presented to the parliament with priority. Given the frequent bottlenecks in the process, ministerial bills can end up indefinitely postponed.

The new government has introduced the practice of “government seminars” to ensure better cohesion and harmonization. The team spirit seems to have improved a lot in comparison with the past given that many ministers are not professional politicians.

How effectively do ministry officials/civil servants coordinate policy proposals?

10
 9

Most policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
 8
 7
 6


Many policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
 5
 4
 3


There is some coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
 2
 1

There is no or hardly any coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
Ministerial Bureaucracy
8
If a ministry wishes to get its proposals accepted or passed, there are no other options than to liaise and coordinate with other ministries or agencies involved. For instance, the Macron Law on the economy (2015) had to be co-signed by 13 ministers. In case this consultation has not taken place, objections expressed by other ministers or by the Council of State might deliver a fatal blow to a proposal. All ministries are equal, but some are more equal than others: for example, the finance minister is a crucial, omnipresent and indispensable actor. Usually the coordination and consultation process is placed under the responsibility of a “rapporteur,” usually a lawyer from the ministry bureaucracy (who is also in charge of arguing and defending the daft bill before the Council of State whose intervention is crucial and not only in purely legal terms). The dossier is always followed as well by a member of the minister’s staff who communicates with his/her counterparts and tries to smooth the process as much as possible. In the most difficult cases (when ministers back up strongly the positions of their respective civil servants), the prime minister has to step in and settle the matter. In contrast to Germany, for instance, sectoral ministers have a limited margin of maneuver.

How effectively do informal coordination mechanisms complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination?

10
 9

Informal coordination mechanisms generally support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 8
 7
 6


In most cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 2
 1

Informal coordination mechanisms tend to undermine rather than complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
Informal Coordination
8
A crucial factor and essentially an invisible coordination mechanism is the “old-boy network” of former students from the grandes écoles (École nationale d’administration (ENA), École Polytechnique, Mines, ParisTech and so on) or membership in the same “grands corps” (prestigious bureaucracies such as Inspection générale des Finances, Diplomatie, Conseil d’Etat and so on). Most ministries (except perhaps the least powerful or those considered as marginal) include one or several persons from this high civil servant super-elite who know each other or are bound by an informal solidarity. These high civil servants (especially “énarques” from ENA) also work in the PMO or the president’s office, further strengthening this informal connection. The system is both efficient and not transparent, from a procedural point of view. It is striking, for instance, how much former President Hollande relied on people who trained with him at ENA and to whom he offered key positions in the political administration – ranging from ministerial positions or the chair of the central bank to many other high offices. President Macron has maintained these informal links.

How extensively and effectively are digital technologies used to support interministerial coordination (in policy development and monitoring)?

10
 9

The government uses digital technologies extensively and effectively to support interministerial coordination.
 8
 7
 6


The government uses digital technologies in most cases and somewhat effectively to support interministerial coordination.
 5
 4
 3


The government uses digital technologies to a lesser degree and with limited effects to support interministerial coordination.
 2
 1

The government makes no substantial use of digital technologies to support interministerial coordination.
Digitalization for Interministerial C.
6
In 2011, an interministerial Directorate for State Information Systems and Communication was established. In 2014, in order to strengthen its capacity to steer and influence the sectoral administrations, the directorate was placed under the authority of the prime minister. A further impulse has been given to the directorate by the Macron administration’s emphasis on the dimensions of the technological revolution. A secretariat of state was created in May 2018 (Secrétariat d’État au Numérique) tasked with boosting initiatives and development in the private and public sector and setting up a 100% state digital platform by 2022. Similarly, the president’s economic advisor was asked to present proposals on how to spend the €55 billion so-called Investments of the Future fund. The president’s adviser suggested allocating nearly €10 billion to the digitalization of public services (with half of this sum for the health care system). In parallel, a report of the Court of Accounts, in support of past actions, recommended a major effort to improve investment and personnel training. The new secretariat is building on these actions with the view of providing users with a single number that would provide access to all public services. Several experiences have already been quite successful. For example, the digitalization of tax declarations, processes and payments has been so successful that for most taxpayers the use of printed documents is no longer possible. Various efforts to improve coordination between administrations have been implemented. For instance, public procurement processes, which involve several administrations, have been streamlined and private companies can access the system using their registration number. While there is a lack of systematic international comparisons, it seems that France currently has less invested than the United Kingdom and Germany in digitalization, and the process in some sectors (e.g., the management of Defense Ministry staff) has suffered major failings in past years.

Evidence-based Instruments

#25

To what extent does the government assess the potential impacts of existing and prepared legal acts (regulatory impact assessments, RIA)?

10
 9

RIA are applied to all new regulations and to existing regulations which are characterized by complex impact paths. RIA methodology is guided by common minimum standards.
 8
 7
 6


RIA are applied systematically to most new regulations. RIA methodology is guided by common minimum standards.
 5
 4
 3


RIA are applied in some cases. There is no common RIA methodology guaranteeing common minimum standards.
 2
 1

RIA are not applied or do not exist.
RIA Application
5
The practice of compiling regulatory impact assessments (RIAs) has been followed since 1995, notably under the supervision of the PMO. However, there is still no systematic RIA process with comparable rules and methodologies; this is just one reason why there is an excess of legislation with an insufficient analysis of regulatory impact. There are partial substitutes, however. The finance and budget ministries try to systematically evaluate the fiscal impact of any new measure. This evaluation might be biased, however, as considerations may be exclusively motivated by financial and budgetary concerns. In some ministries (such as industry, agriculture and social affairs) there is also a tradition of analyzing the impact of planned policies. In other sectors, the law might impose these assessments (such as with the environmental and industry ministries, for instance). A legal assessment is systematically practiced by the Conseil d’Etat before the adoption of a regulation or governmental bill. Parliamentary committees also often do an excellent job of regulatory assessment.
More recently, the government think tank France Stratégie has been charged with evaluating the impact of public policies (i.e., the impact of the Macron law, innovation policy or business subsidies). The think tank has published methodological guidelines for the evaluation of public policies. There is, however, a notable lack of evaluation of new bills under discussion, which result in frequent changes in legislation as unexpected or collateral effects have not been properly anticipated.
What is lacking is a systematic cross-examination involving all the main stakeholders. Former President Sarkozy, with the goal of trimming bureaucratic costs, instituted the so-called RGPP (Revue Générale des Politiques Publiques). It has permitted the cutting of around 100,000 positions, but the process has been highly criticized by the opposition and by the unions. President Hollande decided to move to another type of review (Modernisation de l’Action Publique) but little, aside from a reduction of regions from 22 to 13, has changed. President Macron has launched the operation CAP22 and request that an independent expert committee propose solutions for a comprehensive state reform. However, the committee’s report has not been published and the government has failed to follow the main suggestions of the committee.

Does the RIA process ensure participation, transparency and quality evaluation?

10
 9

RIA analyses consistently involve stakeholders by means of consultation or collaboration, results are transparently communicated to the public and assessments are effectively evaluated by an independent body on a regular basis.
 8
 7
 6


The RIA process displays deficiencies with regard to one of the three objectives.
 5
 4
 3


The RIA process displays deficiencies with regard to two of the three objectives.
 2
 1

RIA analyses do not exist or the RIA process fails to achieve any of the three objectives of process quality.
Quality of RIA Process
4
Studies analyzing the impact of RIA have stated that, although the initial skepticism of administrative bodies toward RIA has been overcome, the content of assessments has been too general and often tended to justify the need for action rather than attempt a critical, well-grounded, assessment. In addition, there are few international comparisons when examining possible alternatives. The assessments are conducted by stakeholders with a perspective of fighting for or against a policy measure. Thus, in general, such assessments have little to recommend them. It remains to be seen if the recommendations for conducting independent assessment by the think tank France Stratégie will be followed. A more thorough analysis (“étude d’impact”) is done in case of large public investments (train tracks, highways, airports etc.) and the final decision as well as the process is submitted to judicial control. Too often the experts in charge of evaluating are chosen ad personam and in a discretionary fashion. The hidden purpose and expectations are that their assessment will be in line with the preferences of the politicians in charge. A comparative study of RIA practices over the last 20 years confirms France’s rather poor ranking, and suggests this is attributable to the lack of a RIA culture, insufficient training for administrative elites, a lack of political will and the feeble role of parliament in RIA matters.

Citations:
France Stratégie: Comment evaluer l’impact des politiques publiques? Document de travail, 16 September 2016
(http://www.strategie.gouv.fr/publications/evaluer-limpact-politiques-publiques)
France Stratégie: Vingt ans d’évaluations d’impact en France et en étranger. Analyse quantitative de la production scientifique, Paris, December 2018 (https://www.strategie.gouv.fr/sites/strategie.gouv.fr/files/atoms/files/fs-dt-impact-politiques-publiques-decembre-2018.pdf)

Does the government conduct effective sustainability checks within the framework of RIA?

10
 9

Sustainability checks are an integral part of every RIA; they draw on an exhaustive set of indicators (including social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainability) and track impacts from the short- to long-term.
 8
 7
 6


Sustainability checks lack one of the three criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Sustainability checks lack two of the three criteria.
 2
 1

Sustainability checks do not exist or lack all three criteria.
Sustainability Check
3
There is no real systematic sustainability strategy except in those cases where EU regulations require such an examination. In most instances, political jockeying tends to prevail over policy analysis. In many instances, decisions are mainly based on political arguments regardless of social, financial or environmental costs. The sustainability argument is mainly used by opponents of a policy or envisaged equipment (the Nantes airport is an acute example of this). Given that every government attempts to pass as many measures in as short a period of time as possible, any preliminary evaluation tends to be considered as a loss of time since the crucial variable is the ability to respond swiftly to public opinion pressures.

To what extent do government ministries regularly evaluate the effectiveness and/or efficiency of public policies and use results of evaluations for the revision of existing policies or development of new policies?

10
 9

Ex post evaluations are carried out for all significant policies and are generally used for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
 8
 7
 6


Ex post evaluations are carried out for most significant policies and are used for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
 5
 4
 3


Ex post evaluations are rarely carried out for significant policies and are rarely used for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
 2
 1

Ex post evaluations are generally not carried out and do not play any relevant role for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
Quality of Ex Post Evaluation
7
There is no practice of systematic evaluation, except for policies or laws in which the respective constitutive act stipulates the need for an evaluation. However, over the past 25 years, the Court of Accounts, previously a legalistic type of control, has transformed its mission and adapted its methods to the evaluation of public policies from a political, social, economic and financial point of view. The reports of the court have become reference documents not only for the political authorities (government and parliament), but also for the opposition, the media and public opinion. The reports are usually characterized by the depth of the analysis and the accuracy of criticisms, and its propositions are usually well received. Both the parliament and the government rarely challenge the courts’ conclusions and recommendations, which often become the basis for new legislation. Since Sarkozy, the nominee for president of the court has been a former politician from the opposition (at the time of appointment). This pattern has strengthened the legitimacy of the court, and allowed for the adoption of more “policy” and politically oriented evaluations. This dimension is not negatively perceived, as the court is not seen as biased in its conclusions, while its pragmatic suggestions are seen as useful for the preparation of new legislation.

Societal Consultation

#20

Does the government consult with societal actors in a fair and pluralistic manner?

10
 9

The government always consults with societal actors in a fair and pluralistic manner.
 8
 7
 6


The government in most cases consults with societal actors in a fair and pluralistic manner.
 5
 4
 3


The government does consult with societal actors, but mostly in an unfair and clientelistic manner.
 2
 1

The government rarely consults with any societal actors.
Public Consultation
6
The traditional distrust regarding “lobbyists,” not seen as legitimate political actors, and the difficult social relations in France that hinder effective social dialog, have limited the capacity of governments to seamlessly or successfully find avenues of negotiation and cooperation. There are thousands of official or semi-official commissions that are supposed to give opinions on a given issue or area; however, governments tend to prefer negotiations with selected partners, excluding some considered as not being “representative.” Consultations are often rather formal, and interested parties very often have no willingness to find a compromise. For these reasons, the temptation to govern top-down has always been strong, provoking in many cases severe, repeated conflicts and protest movements that have often successfully vetoed governmental action.

Things have begun to change, though. In recent years, governments have sought the consultation of interest groups more systematically, and these practices have partly been adopted as legal obligations. Moreover, the rules of social negotiations have been modernized to encourage social contracts between employers and trade unions. Notably, the Larcher Law of 2007 invited the government to present plans for legislation in social and labor matters to the social partners, and to give the social partners an opportunity to negotiate and agree on possible solutions that could then be transformed into law. Nonetheless, given persistent distrust between the social actors, especially on the part of some unions, progress has been slow. There are positive cases, such as the 2013 reform bill on the labor market. This reform bill followed an agreement between three (out of five) trade unions and the employers’ organization, which was then transformed into law. But have been setbacks, too. In 2016, the first draft of a new labor law was put forward by the government without consultation, provoking massive social protest. In panic, the government withdrew its draft to negotiate a new one. This erratic method of government left unions and employers totally frustrated.

So far, President Macron has followed a different path, proceeding with intensive consultations while ensuring that the government and parliament have the final say, and leaving little room for change once a government proposal is drafted. This method was applied to the process of drafting the labor law reform in 2017. Though intense consultations with the social partners took place in July and August 2017, the ordinances (while taking into account some trade union grievances) were presented to the social partners as non-negotiable once drafted in September 2017. The process of reforming the national railway company followed a similar course. The government presented and passed a bill through parliament, declaring that the core measures were non-negotiable, but offered negotiations for the implementation of the new law. In the end, in spite of four months of protests and strikes, and stalemate between the government and trade unions, the reform was adopted. This situation has left the social partners bitter and frustrated – even those who were willing to accept the reforms, but wanted to be incorporated in the decision-making process (e.g., the largest trade union, CDFT). Based on these and other examples, the president has been accused of sticking to a top-down method, leaving no place for the social partners to argue and obtain amendments. More generally, Macron has been criticized for his solitary approach to decision-making, and his contempt of the country’s traditional economic and social actors. Faced with the magnitude of these negative reactions and the impact of the “yellow vests” riots, the government is now proceeding with more care. It remains to be seen if this will trigger a real change in the relationship between the president and the social partners.

Policy Communication

#10

To what extent does the government achieve coherent communication?

10
 9

Ministries are highly successful in aligning their communication with government strategy.
 8
 7
 6


Ministries most of the time are highly successful in aligning their communication with government strategy.
 5
 4
 3


Ministries occasionally issue public statements that contradict the public communication of other ministries or the government strategy.
 2
 1

Strategic communication planning does not exist; individual ministry statements regularly contradict each other. Messages are often not factually consistent with the government’s strategy.
Coherent Communication
7
Government policy communication is usually subject to centralized control by the executive branch. One of the preoccupations of the executive branch as part of the Fifth Republic is to avoid disagreement or contradiction within the ministerial team, even when coalition governments are in power. There have been situations in which ministers expressing divergent views in the media have been forced to resign.

Hollande’s government communication was poor and messy. In contrast, Macron has defined a new strategy: precise indications about his program during the presidential campaign, a commitment to fully and speedily implement these policy measures, and strict control over the communication policy under the tight supervision of the Élysée staff. This has conferred a significantly higher degree of coherence on governmental communication. However, due to a lack of coordination between ministers, the presidential services and the political movement which supports Macron (LREM), the government’s communication policy has been flawed, triggering changes in the organization of the Élysée communication unit. The Macron’s distrust of the media has not helped, and the relationship between the media and the President’s Office is far from optimal. The price has been a highly critical press, which tends to compete with social networks, and has prioritized form and style over substance. As communication is highly centralized and technocratic ministers often neglect the art of communication, the capacity of the executive to communicate with the public has been rather poor.

Implementation

#11

To what extent can the government achieve its own policy objectives?

10
 9

The government can largely implement its own policy objectives.
 8
 7
 6


The government is partly successful in implementing its policy objectives or can implement some of its policy objectives.
 5
 4
 3


The government partly fails to implement its objectives or fails to implement several policy objectives.
 2
 1

The government largely fails to implement its policy objectives.
Government Effectiveness
6
The government is efficient in implementing its programs, as it can rely on a relatively disciplined cabinet, an obedient majority and a competent bureaucracy. Resistance, if any, comes from social actors. The question whether government policies are effective is another matter. One of the major issues that the Hollande government faced was a lack of credibility concerning its commitments to economic growth, unemployment and the reduction of the public deficit. Optimistic forecasts have been disappointed by poor results on all fronts. Most international organizations (the IMF, OECD and the European Union), think tanks or even national organizations (the French central bank, the statistical institute and the Court of Auditors) have pointed out the impossibility of reaching set targets based on over-optimistic data or forecasts. The election of President Macron represents a radical change at the top. The main improvement has been the capacity of the Macron government to combine its policy commitments with intense stakeholder concertation before finalizing legislative proposals. Until now, this method of policymaking has been quite successful. After 18 months in power, the new administration has been very active in adopting and implementing its policy reform agenda. Some changes have already materialized, for instance, in the fields of education, health care and labor regulations. However, the key issue remains the capacity of the new administration to increase employability, reduce budget deficits and public debt, and sustain economic growth. From this point of view, it is still rather early to evaluate the effectiveness of this strategy and its likely success in the medium- to long-term.

To what extent does the organization of government provide mechanisms to ensure that ministers implement the government’s program?

10
 9

The organization of government successfully provides strong mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 8
 7
 6


The organization of government provides some mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 5
 4
 3


The organization of government provides weak mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 2
 1

The organization of government does not provide any mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
Ministerial Compliance
9
Compliance by ministers, when compared internationally, is good, as a minister can be dismissed at any time and without explanation. In the French majority system and in the absence of real coalition governments, the ministers, who are nominated by the president, are largely loyal to him. Together with the effective hierarchical steering of governmental action, ministers have strong incentives to implement the government’s program, following guidelines set up by the president and prime minister. This statement remains true but is highly dependent on the leadership capacities of the president and prime minister. Unlike his predecessor, Macron has made clear that strict compliance is expected from ministers, and there is no doubt that his leadership and policy choices will be supported by ministers who, for most, are not professional politicians.

How effectively does the government office/prime minister’s office monitor line ministry activities with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The GO / PMO effectively monitors the implementation activities of all line ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of most line ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of some line ministries.
 2
 1

The GO / PMO does not monitor the implementation activities of line ministries.
Monitoring Ministries
9
Line ministry activities are generally well monitored, but several factors influence the impact of oversight, including: the strength of the prime minister; the relationship of the minister with the president; the political position of the minister within the majority or as a local notable; media attention; and political pressure. This traditional pattern under the Fifth Republic failed to work during the first 30 months of the Hollande presidency due to the president’s weakness and reluctance to arbiter between ministers and divergent preferences. It was only after the September 2014 crisis and the forced resignation of dissident ministers that Prime Minister Manuel Valls was able to exercise improved oversight of the ministries. The monitoring of ministers by Macron and his prime minister is even tighter.

How effectively do federal and subnational ministries monitor the activities of bureaucracies/executive agencies with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The ministries effectively monitor the implementation activities of all bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 8
 7
 6


The ministries monitor the implementation activities of most bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 5
 4
 3


The ministries monitor the implementation activities of some bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 2
 1

The ministries do not monitor the implementation activities of bureaucracies/executive agencies.
Monitoring Agencies|Bureaucracies
7
In a centralized system like France’s, the central machinery is unable to monitor fully and constantly the implementation of government policies. There exist huge sectoral and geographical variations. In some areas, decisions are not implemented or instead are badly implemented or flexibly interpreted. For instance, education is one of the most centralized policy fields in France, but implementation varies so starkly that parents have adopted strategies (such as the crucial choice of where to live) to register their children in the “best” schools. Implementing centrally designed policies requires local or regional adaptation of rigid rules that are applicable to all. Even the prefects, supposedly the arm of central government, refer to this practice, as may be witnessed for instance in the absent, or insufficient, implementation of water directives in some regions.

To what extent does the central government ensure that tasks delegated to subnational self-governments are adequately funded?

10
 9

The central government enables subnational self-governments to fulfill all their delegated tasks by funding these tasks sufficiently and/or by providing adequate revenue-raising powers.
 8
 7
 6


The central government enables subnational governments to fulfill most of their delegated tasks by funding these tasks sufficiently and/or by providing adequate revenue-raising powers.
 5
 4
 3


The central government sometimes and deliberately shifts unfunded mandates to subnational governments.
 2
 1

The central government often and deliberately shifts unfunded mandates to subnational self-governments.
Task Funding
7
Over the past 30 to 40 years, the powers of communes, provinces (départements) and regions, delegated by central authorities or taken over de facto by local entities, have increased considerably. Normally a delegation of powers was accompanied by corresponding funding. However, as formerly centralized policies were notably badly managed or insufficiently funded, local units had to face huge expenditure increases that were not fully covered by the central government. Thus, more than two-thirds of non-military public monies are spent by local/regional actors, a figure comparable to the situation in federal states. While in theory local authorities are in some areas acting as agents of the central government, they have, actually, secured ample discretion. The recent regional reform reducing the number of regions from 22 to 13 has had quite an important consequence: the new regions will benefit from a fraction of the VAT, whereas before they did not receive taxes but only transfers from the central government.

On the other hand, the piecemeal and ad hoc reforms of local taxation, such as the elimination of the local business tax (taxe professionnelle) and its compensation by national state allocations in 2009 have not improved the situation. Growing tension between central government and local authorities has been fueled by President Macron’s decision to exempt 80% of local taxpayers from paying the “taxe d’habitation” (a rather unfair tax paid by all local residents, owners and tenants). The local tax will be replaced by a financial compensation from central government, which means that local authorities will lose control over this part of their resources. Moreover, local authorities fear that the state subsidy will not evolve over time according to needs. In addition, further savings have been imposed, forcing local authorities to improve their budgetary policies. The government also expects to pass a law obliging local authorities to apply the 35-hour working week regulation, as underemployment is a significant issue in many local authority areas. The expected savings correspond to 30,000 jobs.

To what extent does central government ensure that subnational self-governments may use their constitutional scope of discretion with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The central government enables subnational self-governments to make full use of their constitutional scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 8
 7
 6


Central government policies inadvertently limit the subnational self-governments’ scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 5
 4
 3


The central government formally respects the constitutional autonomy of subnational self-governments, but de facto narrows their scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 2
 1

The central government deliberately precludes subnational self-governments from making use of their constitutionally provided implementation autonomy.
Constitutional Discretion
6
Some instances of recentralization have occurred through fiscal or administrative means, but despite the usual stereotypes about French hyper-centralization, it is fair to say that subnational government enjoys much freedom of maneuver. Legally, subnational government is subordinate. Politically, the influence of local elites in parliament and in particular in the Senate has been decisive. However, this is less true in the National Assembly due to the fact that the majority of the new deputies elected in 2017 have no local experience or responsibility. The most efficient but contested instruments of control derive from the legal, technical or economic standards imposed by the Brussels and Paris bureaucracies. Violating such standards can involve high political, monetary and legal costs for local politicians. As local taxes and spending have grown beyond control over the past 30 years, and the myriad of local units make the steering of policymaking difficult, central government has failed to find more effective tools than reducing central government financial contributions to force local authorities to reduce their spending. “Contracts” determining spending have been signed with most of the large local units.

To what extent does central government ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services?

10
 9

Central government effectively ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
 8
 7
 6


Central government largely ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
 5
 4
 3


Central government ensures that subnational self-governments realize national minimum standards of public services.
 2
 1

Central government does not ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
National Standards
9
Policymakers in France share a common interest in ensuring national cohesion. This is the basis for a large number of national standards and rules that canalize local and regional policies. National standards are determined by national regulations and constitutional and administrative courts serve as arbiters in disputes over whether these standards are met. The application of national standards is facilitated by the fact that most public utilities are provided by large private or semi-public companies with a vested interest in having the same rules and standards across the country. Services such as energy supply, water distribution or garbage collection are run by many different companies, most of which belong to two or three holding companies. Following the protest of business and local politicians against a flood of norms and standards, the government has started an enquiry and taken a few measures of “simplification.” However, to date, no significant results have been observed with the exception of the construction sector where norms have been simplified, after imposing extremely cumbersome rules and standards.

To what extent is government enforcing regulations in an effective and unbiased way, also against vested interests?

10
 9

Government agencies enforce regulations effectively and without bias.
 8
 7
 6


Government agencies, for the most part, enforce regulations effectively and without bias.
 5
 4
 3


Government agencies enforce regulations, but ineffectively and with bias.
 2
 1

Government agencies enforce regulations ineffectively, inconsistently and with bias.
Regulatory Enforcement
7
The willingness of French governments to adopt rules and regulations applicable across the country encounters resistance due to the diversity of situations and the relative strength of vested interests. The difficult exercise of balancing conflicting goals has characterized France since the time of the monarchy.
During the Fifth Republic, there have been limited cases of political bias or clientelistic behavior within the central administrative apparatus. It is not so clear at the local level where mayors can be more lenient vis-à-vis individuals or groups, for instance in the field of urban planning or in the management of procurement contracts (favoring local providers). The main distortions in policy implementation derive from a well-rooted tradition of ignoring the incomplete implementation or non-application of excessive regulations. Governments often lack the courage to enforce regulations when they fear substantial protests. Successive governments have either failed to regulate or withdrawn a planned regulation when protests proved powerful and won widespread public support. Since 2017, President Macron has been more courageous in this respect.

Adaptability

#5

To what extent does the government respond to international and supranational developments by adapting domestic government structures?

10
 9

The government has appropriately and effectively adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 8
 7
 6


In many cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 2
 1

The government has not adapted domestic government structures, no matter how beneficial adaptation might be.
Domestic Adaptability
8
The French government has a good track record in adapting national institutions to European and international challenges. This can be attributed to the bureaucratic elite’s awareness of international issues. This contrasts vividly with the government parties’ weakened ability to adapt national policies to the challenges stemming from the globalization of the economy, as there is often fierce resistance from trade unions, most political parties and public opinion at large. The defeat of the traditional party government system in 2017 has radically transformed the political landscape. New parliamentarians, most selected from outside the traditional political party framework, fully support Macron’s new vision. Macron’s declared European and global approach is a radical departure from the past orientations of both the right and the left. However, this French U-turn coincides with a crisis in European and global multilateral institutions, which are being challenged by populist governments and movements around the world.

To what extent is the government able to collaborate effectively with international efforts to foster global public goods?

10
 9

The government can take a leading role in shaping and implementing collective efforts to provide global public goods. It is able to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress.
 8
 7
 6


The government is largely able to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. Existing processes enabling the government to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress are, for the most part, effective.
 5
 4
 3


The government is partially able to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. Processes designed to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress show deficiencies.
 2
 1

The government does not have sufficient institutional capacities to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. It does not have effective processes to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress.
International Coordination
8
France plays an active role in the international coordination of joint reform initiatives. The country contributes to the provision of global public goods. It has a long tradition of acting on an international level to take part in security/military missions, combat climate change (e.g., hosting the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP 21)), provide humanitarian and development aid, and promote health, education programs and fiscal cooperation. This being said, the French government, as other governments, often takes positions that advance French (economic) interests.

Striking examples are the French government’s attitude toward free trade discussions, in particular, concerning agricultural products and environmental issues, such as air and water pollution, where France has failed to implement supranational recommendations at the national level. On development assistance, there is still a big gap between official commitments and actual spending (0.37% instead of 0.70% of gross national product in 2015, according to the OECD).

Concerning the European Monetary Union, French proposals contribute to defining EU policies and often serve as a basis for compromise. However, the credibility of these initiatives was damaged by the French government’s inability to respect common rules France had signed, such as the stability rules of the EMU. This considerably limited the government’s success in steering or influencing decision-making at the European level, with France lacking credibility and political support.

President Macron has adopted a fundamentally different method. Having led an openly pro-European presidential campaign, Macron has declared his full commitment to EU rules, as well as his willingness to reduce the government’s budget deficits and realize structural reforms. In doing so, he seeks not only to enhance the country’s competitiveness but also to regain lost confidence and credibility in Europe, which is seen as a prerequisite for France’s EU partners to seriously consider his ambitious ideas on European renewal and further integration. Under Macron, France has shown a new willingness and capacity to contribute to the European Union. However, this impulse has produced few concrete results given the current crisis in European and national governance systems. On crucial matters, France finds it difficult to gain sufficient support for its proposals. For example, Macron’s ambitious EMU reform plans have met strong opposition from eight northern and northeastern EMU countries.

Organizational Reform

#16

To what extent do actors within the government monitor whether institutional arrangements of governing are appropriate?

10
 9

The institutional arrangements of governing are monitored regularly and effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The institutional arrangements of governing are monitored regularly.
 5
 4
 3


The institutional arrangements of governing are selectively and sporadically monitored.
 2
 1

There is no monitoring.
Self-monitoring
5
There are plenty of reports prepared at the request of governmental authorities in view of reforming rules, procedures and structures. The Court of Accounts plays a very active and stimulating role in this regard. However, only a few of these recommendations are implemented. Resistance by interested ministries or agencies is usually fierce and often supported by opposition parties or even by part of the majority coalition. The issue is complicated by the fact that ministerial structures can be set up and changed by the government in charge. The most ambitious recent attempt has been the general assessment of public policies launched in 2007, which ordered an assessment of all policies and institutions to rationalize their makeup and to find savings. This process was canceled by President Hollande and replaced by a new procedure named the Modernization of Public Action (Modernisation de l’Action Publique), which has produced very modest results over the past five years. In 2017, Macron launched a similar initiative (CAP22), which seems to have stagnated, too.
Among the government bodies least adaptable to structural change is local government, a system that is multilayered, complex, and no longer in line with the challenges of the modern economy and society. Most serious attempts at reform have failed. However, some elements of the 2015 reform on territorial reorganization may trigger more change (new powers to metropolitan areas, organized cooperation/fusion of the numerous and often too small municipalities). The initial measures taken by President Macron seem to indicate that he has chosen the indirect but powerful instrument of state subsidies to force local governments to make changes. However, the government’s ambitious changes concerning the metropolitan areas and Paris are still in being developed as they face (as usual) fierce resistance from the powerful local government lobby. From de Gaulle to Macron, all governments have had to limit themselves to partial and ad hoc reforms, making the overall system complex and costly.

To what extent does the government improve its strategic capacity by changing the institutional arrangements of governing?

10
 9

The government improves its strategic capacity considerably by changing its institutional arrangements.
 8
 7
 6


The government improves its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
 5
 4
 3


The government does not improve its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
 2
 1

The government loses strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
Institutional Reform
7
French governments are usually reactive to the need to adapt and adjust to new challenges and pressures. These adaptations are not always based on a thorough evaluation of the benefits and drawbacks of the foreseen changes, however. A case in point is the reluctance of most governments to take seriously into consideration the recommendations of international organizations, if they do not fit with the views and short-term interests of the governing coalition. Resistance from vested interests also limits the quality and depth of reforms. Too often the changes, even if initially ambitious, become merely cosmetic or messy adjustments (when not dropped altogether). This triggers hostility to change, while in fact very little has been done. The new Macron administration is reminiscent of the Gaullist period at the beginning of the Fifth Republic, with its strong commitment to radical reforms (“heroic” rather than “incremental” style). The initial months of the presidency have already attained considerable achievements, but one has to be aware of French society’s deep-rooted reluctance to change. For example, the violent yellow vests protest movement in November/December 2018 put a brake on this “bonapartist” storm. After 18 months of the current government, one can observe that the weak capacity of organized opposition (e.g., the trade unions, social organizations and vested interests) to the Macron administration’s reforms has given rise to spontaneous and violent grass-roots protests. Protestors have criticized the president’s top-down methods and policies, and the popularity of the president and prime minister has declined. This situation has forced the government to adopt a more cautious approach. However, if improvements are not felt within the next 12 to 18 months, the effective capacity of the government to achieve real change could be seriously challenged. In 2019, the risky reform of the pension system could be the decisive test.
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