Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
With the parliamentary debate on the French budget for 2006 in full swing, Alexandre Siné sets out the prerequisites for a proper understanding of the issues surrounding public expenditure. The topic is of course frequently aired in the media. But the questions of public finance are generally treated either by focusing on "totem" figures whose size is beyond the instinctive grasp of the normal person (a deficit of 46.8 billion euros - why not 60?) or by highly technical discussions (annexes to the main budget, Title III, etc.) that are meaningless to the man or woman in the street.
So we are very grateful to Alexandre Siné for giving us here an expert's analysis, focusing on a few crucial topics, that is easy to understand and essential for a genuine reflection about how much flexibility the French authorities will have in the future. Indeed, this article shows to what extent the national budget is shaped - aside from all the attempts to optimise it generated every year by the fertile imagination of the services of the finance ministry - by expenditures that "increase slowly but surely". This is fairly clear from the parliamentary voting mechanism that operated under rules set in 1959 whereby the "services votés" - i.e. the minimum amount that the government considers to be indispensable in order to maintain public services at the level of the previous year - were voted on as a whole, although they account for more than 90% of public expenditure.
Today, the 2001 "organic law" which applies to financial legislation (called LOLF) has altered this procedure. But simply applying this law will not do anything to change the salient fact affirmed by Alexandre Siné: that this structural rigidity in the national budget constitutes an abdication of political control, as every year parliament has less and less say in the financing of the central government, except to continue to sell off the state's assets as long as there are any to sell.
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998, Amartya Sen is known above all for his work on indicators of poverty and development which now form the basis of the international comparisons produced every year by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) in its Human Development Report. One of his other main concerns is cultural freedom and the promotion of democracy - a universal value that he feels is too often monopolized by the West. André-Yves Portnoff knows Sen's work well and stresses here the contribution of his thinking in these two fields; he is delighted by the ethical rigour that the Indian scholar brings to his work.
In 2004 Futuribles, in partnership with the Aleph group of the French Commissariat général du Plan, launched a series of articles with the aim of enlightening readers about what is happening in other countries in the area of futures studies. Seven articles have been published, presenting the main national specialist bodies and the approach to strategic thinking guiding public decision-making in various countries (Germany, Japan, Sweden, South Africa, etc.).
To round out the series Bruno Hérault analyses the methods used in other countries: which topics are most commonly examined? How are they treated? What kind of lessons are learned? While being careful to avoid hasty benchmarking - whereby what works in one country is applied to another even though their situations are quite different - Bruno Hérault offers a fairly detailed comparative survey. Most countries undertake some form of futures studies (institutional, geographic, scientific, environmental or social); the topics studied vary depending on circumstances, but the same topics tend to crop up regularly on the agendas of specialist organizations and think-tanks.
What a strange country France is, where the state claims to be the sole and exclusive embodiment of the common good and yet, as a result, it is incapable of tolerating the existence of independent agencies where discussions could take place that might challenge the rightness of public decision-making. Jean-Jacques Salomon provides yet another example, writing from his own experience as the President of the Collège de la prévention des risques technologiques (CPRT), set up by Michel Rocard when he was French Prime Minister.
Jean-Jacques Salomon starts by stating what he understands by the precautionary principle, which is all too frequently accused of paralysing the spirit of invention and innovation necessary for progress. He goes on to stress how important it is to have independent agencies capable of assessing advances in science and technology, given that the applications are, as we all know, becoming ever more ambivalent, their potential outcomes ranging from the best to the worst. Yet, as the former President of the CPRT argues, these agencies are misfits in the French political and institutional system, and the authorities therefore suspect them of wanting to hinder the projects drawn up by the orthodox civil service.
After explaining how the CPRT operated, illustrating his account with several particularly striking examples, Jean-Jacques Salomon describes how the Collège finally came to be closed down. In addition to this specific instance, he obviously also demonstrates clearly the French public authorities' desire to run everything their way without countenancing the slightest opposition, nor even accepting that their choices should be a matter for democratic debate, highly necessary though that is.
"The Arab World finds itself at a historical crossroads. Caught between oppression at home and violation from abroad, Arabs are increasingly excluded from determining their own future." So begins the cover blurb for UNDP's recent Arab Human Development Report 2004. Towards Freedom in the Arab World (New York: United Nations, 2005, 248 pp.).
Contrary to what some commentators might think, in particular given recent events in Lebanon, the Arab world is still far from embracing democratic principles as many wish that it would. For the moment, as Jean-Jacques Salomon argues in discussing the UNDP report, respect for basic freedoms is compromised in many Arab countries by dictatorship, authoritarian rule and their cultural heritage. Many lag behind in their respect for freedoms of various kinds and for human rights, but also with regard to female emancipation and improvements in education. Yet unless the Arab countries deal with these problems and institute "indigenous" democratic reforms, it is unlikely that a "renaissance of the Arab world" will ensue.
An exasperated cry from Michel Drancourt, bemoaning the fact that France too often blames the European Union for the country's inability to make the changes that are now necessary - especially reform of the public administration.
For several years now, the question of state reform has frequently been under discussion in France, where no government of any political party has been able to make real progress in this regard, as the mounting public deficit shows. Yet the topic is also in the news in countries that some commentators hold up as models, such as the United States.
As Thierry Vircoulon argues here, from a reading of two books on ways of reforming the US Federal administration recently published on the other side of the Atlantic (Urgent Business for America: Revitalizing the Federal Government for the 21st Century. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2003, and High-Performance Government. Structure, Leadership, Incentives. Santa Monica: Rand Corporation, 2005), the problem of how to reorganize what the Federal administration does, and how the many public agencies deliver their services, has been under examination for some years now in the US. The debate about methods of public management, finding ways of improving performance using criteria normally applied in the private sector, benchmarking, etc., is sometimes very similar to the discussion of these subjects in France. It has been given a further boost since 9/11 since the concern with security implies certain changes and a renewed reliance on the state.
Against the background of economic problems in France that have now persisted for several decades and that no government of any political complexion has managed to solve satisfactorily - as was shown at the end of February 2005 when the unemployment rate once again rose above the worrying threshold of 10% of the economically active population - the appointment to the French government in June 2002 of two ministers who were not professional politicians raised the hopes of some commentators.
With the arrival of Francis Mer - previously chief executive of the firm Usinor - and Luc Ferry - a philosopher and writer - "civil society" entered the world of political decision-makers. Would this be a more effective way of undertaking reforms and explaining them to voters? Unfortunately, less than two years later, both men were let go in circumstances that left them puzzled and led them, some months later, to examine their experiences as non-elected appointees surrounded by professional politicians who were constantly worried about their media image since the prospect of elections was never far away.
Michel Drancourt has read both books - Vous, les politiques... (You, the Politicians), Paris: Albin Michel, 2005; Comment peut-on être ministre? Essai sur la gouvernabilité des démocraties (How to be a Minister? Essay on the Governability of Democracies), Paris: Plon, 2005 - for Futuribles. Here he presents the main ideas and expresses some concerns about the efficiency of the French style of government.
Less than two months before the referendum vote on the European Constitution in France, the political debate has begun, muddling principles, presentation and plenty of other issues that have little relevance to the question being asked. The French voter has good reason to be concerned about many topics, such as a stagnant economy, rising unemployment (in France as in Germany), relocation of manufacturing abroad. It has not helped matters that every time there has been a change of government, the main political parties (in particular the Centre-Right Union pour la majorité présidentielle and the socialist party) have not hesitated to blame "Europe" or globalization for all the problems that they have not been able to deal with themselves.
Now that the European Union has been enlarged to 25 members for almost a year and after a decade of institutional problems, the ratification of the Constitution agreed by the member states is a big step. The main French political parties are well aware of this and are urging a "yes" vote, but this "yes" is blighted by internal quarrels and disagreements that help to confuse the issues.
Robert Toulemon is President of the Association française d'études pour l'Union européenne and an acknowledged expert on the subject. Here he tries to bring the debate back to the basic issue: the Constitution itself, and not the political and socio-economic context in which it is being presented to French voters. He offers a detailed and balanced analysis of the text: its source, the areas where it makes (or might make) advances, but also the lacunae and weaknesses that exist and that a more federalist approach might well have avoided. His position, which is amazingly balanced, coming from a committed European, should not deceive us: how France votes in the referendum will have a decisive impact on the future of the European Union and the role that it will play in global affairs. There is no doubt that a setback now would be fatal.
En guise d’introduction, Hugues de Jouvenel a rappelé que nous étions à la veille de l’entrée en vigueur du protocole de Kyoto (il est entré en application le mercredi 16 février 2005 dans les 127 pays du monde l’ayant ratifié). L’expertise de Pierre Radanne, a-t-il souligné, s’avère donc tout à fait bienvenue pour nous en éclairer les enjeux.
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.
Futures studies should not be content merely with conducting high-level "macro" analyses but should also be concerned with revealing trends that affect people as individuals. It is therefore extremely important to be able to develop foresight techniques related to everyday life, so as to highlight via particular facts or ideas the changes taking place in the way we live and what they reveal. This article by Julien Damon is a perfect example of such an effort to apply foresight to daily life. It looks at an apparently banal topic - smacking - and shows how modern attitudes to smacking reflect a real shift in approaches to bringing up children and in respect for their rights and freedoms.
The author begins with a brief survey of laws against corporal punishment of children in different countries. He outlines the debates on this issue that stirred up public opinion in Canada and the United Kingdom, and then discusses the French situation.
He goes on to present the arguments used by those in favour of anti-smacking legislation, especially in the United States and France. He notes the growth of a major lobby in France to alert parliamentarians to the problem of corporal punishment within the family.
Finally, Damon argues that this mobilization of opinion reflects major changes in society and in the family: although corporal punishment has clearly been on the decline for several decades, there is now a move to prohibit it by law. Beyond the debate about authority versus liberty, it is also a matter of whether people want a society based on trust or on legal norms.
Ce chapitre est extrait du Rapport Vigie 2016 de Futuribles International, qui propose un panorama structuré des connaissances et des incertitudes des experts que l'association a mobilisés pour explorer les évolutions des 15 à 35 prochaines années sur 11 thématiques.