Forum, Futuribles Journal n° 305

Institutions - Société, modes de vie

Debate about the Risks of France Declining: the Camdessus Report

In May 2004, having made the revival of the economy and of employment its top priority, the French government (via the minister responsible for the economy at the time, Nicolas Sarkozy) asked Michel Camdessus (former head of the IMF and honorary governor of the Bank of France) to produce a report on the economic and financial outlook for France along with proposals for corresponding strategic policy options. Among other things, the report was also supposed to "shed some preliminary light on the structural obstacles hindering the dynamism" of the French economy.
The report, produced under the guidance of Michel Camdessus and drawing on contributions from about 20 experts with a wide variety of backgrounds, was handed over on 19 October 2004. Under the title Le Sursaut ("The Sudden Start"), it adopted a highly alarmist tone as to the prospects for the French economy: with the risk of failing to keep up, the lack of jobs, the growing debt, etc., it argued that the country is in a downward spiral and that swift action is needed in order to prevent it reaching rock bottom. The report then proposed a range of priority policy directions, in particular aimed at making the labour market more flexible, developing services, fostering education and research, etc.
The very pessimistic tone of the report and its perceived bias towards market forces generated controversy in France, with some commentators fearing that it might become the "Bible" of the current government. Futuribles here provides a platform for two economists with opposing views of the Camdessus Report: Michel Drancourt sees it as a "lucid" assessment of the state of France, whereas Gilles Cazes thinks that the prescription proposed is best forgotten.

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