Saturday, 18 May 2013

A bright idea from Hollande

I didn't get much from President Hollande's big set-piece press conference this week - apart from a vaguely expressed desire to get Europe "moving" again, and some predictable side-swipes at the UK's lack of enthusiasm for the European project, there wasn't anything to indicate what his administration intends to do about competitiveness, structural reform, and the ongoing fiscal haemorrhage. And a government reshuffle - which might have indicated that structural progress was being taken more seriously, especially if the current nutbar in charge of industrial policy, Arnaud Montebourg, got shifted or sacked - is still possible, but "not yet".

But there is one initiative that caught my eye. Currently, if you want something from Town Hall, or the local office of one of the government departments, or from the various social and medical funds, and you don't get an answer within two months, it's a deemed No. Naturally, this gives all the bargaining power to the famously obstructive French bureaucracy. The proposed initiative would change the deemed No, to a deemed Yes.

It's an excellent plan. It's not perfect - as one guy said when interviewed about it on France's TV2, sometimes you'd prefer a quick No to a delayed Yes - but it's absolutely on the right general track.
How much of it will actually get into legislation (apparently scheduled for September) remains to be seen, especially from a government with strong ties to the public sector unions, but hopefully it might be a wee straw in the wind of some new thinking.

And don't you love the word paperasserie, the French term for the cumbersome paperwork you need to get officials' approval? To English ears (and perhaps French, too), it neatly combines papers and harass.

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