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01 February 2015

Discussed but not published: French RIAs of draft legislation

If ever there was a law where an published impact assessment would be useful to support informed discussion, the "loi Macron" on "activity and growth" currently the focus of bitter recrimination in France, would certainly qualify.
Context: the French Socialist government, after three years of pro-trade union economic policies, now seems to want to realize a more liberal approach is necessary, to encourage business to invest and create jobs by lifting some of the administrative or legal hurdles. Two specially litigious measures (of the 200 contained in the bill) are the extension of Sunday trading facilities, and the opening up to competition of inter-city road transport (until now limited to preserve the national railway monopoly).
But the impact assessment is nowhere to be found online, though some of its more prominent contents are quoted by newspapers, following an AFP (news agency) despatch. It is a pity that the very complete dossier of parliamentary discussions uploaded by the National Assembly, does not contain the RIA that the Government is constitutionally bound to present with every bill tabled in Parliament. The National Assembly itself invites stakeholders to express their views online, but without giving them the text of the RIA.
RIAs are only published on Legifrance, the portal of French legislation, once the law has been voted.
Though the full text of the impact assessment is not available, most of its significant figures are quoted in the official parliamentary report produced by the National Assembly secretariat.
An AFP story recapitulates the discussion in Parliament from 26 January, stressing that two impact assessments conducted by an ad-hoc body originating from the Planning agency (!) concluded that the liberalization would have overall positive economic consequences.
Experts interested in a recent significant RIA "à la française" will look at the assessment, published on Legifrance, of a law to make life easier for business (law n° 2014-1545 dated 20 December 2014), which displays the usual features and limitations of French RIA. Rather than a study of the issue and various options, it focuses on the solution put forward by the Government, and appears more like a justification of adopted policy than an objective study of various reform proposals.
For a more complete picture of the features of French RIA, readers may refer to the RIA section (pp 14-16) of a study of BR in France by JCA Senior Associate CH Montin (written for and published by an Italian university), which shows that in France, RIA plays a very specific role in the relations between Parliament and Government, rather than a support to decision-making within Government.
See also a presentation given on several occasions, "New RIA in France: impacting policy making?" (all documents accessible also from http://www.smartregulation.net  ) 

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