Official speeches and statements - December 9, 2016
You’ve come here, to Paris, to exchange views, engage in dialogue, build new coalitions and propose new tools, so that the relationship between public authorities and citizens can be changed, and so that a new democracy can emerge.
A democracy where the state, government departments, public authorities open up to all initiatives, involve all those talented people who want to lend their support, where innovation is present everywhere to improve public performance, but also an understanding of the work of those who have received a popular mandate to take decisions.
A democracy which guarantees that governments, elected representatives and leaders do indeed serve the general interest alone; that they have integrity, that they’re responsible and accountable, that their action can be assessed and that they can then be proud to talk about the mark they’ve made and the commitments they’ve honored. A democracy which inspires confidence and therefore eliminates indifference and mistrust.
The Open Government Partnership was created to coordinate and support all those men and women who share this vision, and to go even further: to pool the experience of all our societies. Since 2011, it’s come a long way: in less than five years the Partnership has spread from eight to 70 countries and enabled dozens of governments to cooperate with their societies, and 2,500 commitments have been promoted in 135 action plans. We’re gathered not merely to say what should be done: we’re already here to assess what has been done.
I also wanted—as early as 2012, when I took office—to bring France into this movement so that it too could make its contribution and set an example in terms of transparency, public involvement, the probity of its leaders, the openness of its administration and the sharing of data. So that France could also, as far as possible, be in the vanguard.
So the opening-up of public data has become a principle; it concerns every sector of government activity. A High Authority for Transparency in Public Life has been created. Fourteen thousand elected representatives and public officials must make declarations of their assets and interests, those of members of parliament are published, and ethical rules have been set and demand the most scrupulous compliance.
We’ve also adopted a law protecting whistle-blowers which provides a framework for pressure groups, creates a public register and establishes an anti-corruption agency—it will be created at the beginning of next year.
This pledge of a more transparent, more open, more participatory democracy is part of what must be a commitment for politics, to make it fully ambitious and also a source of total pride, rehabilitate it in the eyes of our fellow citizens, show that it’s a commitment and not merely for show. But collectively we must go further. That’s the purpose of the Paris summit.
For my part, I have three goals in welcoming you today.
The first is to broaden our community. Since 2011, new members have joined the Partnership at each summit. Here too, we’ll be mindful of every initiative that enables us to add new countries: I’m thinking of Portugal, Morocco, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Jamaica, Luxembourg and Germany. The leaders of Guinea and Haiti have also made their intentions known. We want this process to concern every country, whatever its level of development, every continent, and we also want it to be open to regions, local authorities, towns and cities—and I welcome those among us.
My second priority is for us to update our common pact. That’s the purpose of the declaration that will be published at the end of this summit. It recognizes that over the next five years, our Partnership will have to be assessed according to our ability to produce reforms that do indeed take shape in our fellow citizens’ lives. Everyone will have to produce national action plans.
We’ll also have to launch new alliances between public stakeholders and civil society in order, in each of our countries, to further citizens’ involvement, the administration’s ability to be held to account and assessed and its speed in transposing, translating practically what’s decided by law into everyday life. We also have the goal of broadening the scope of transparency by putting it at the service of sustainable development and the fight against climate change. (...)
When I took responsibility for the country in 2012, our industry accounted for barely 12% of national wealth, whereas we know it’s more than double that in Germany, and other countries have long had strategies based on industry and the services linked to it.
The figures may also be deceptive, because there’s also a lot of business in industry-related services. Even so, industry’s share in our country steadily declined in the 2000s. There was also a loss of competitiveness, particularly resulting from costs that may have been higher than our neighbors’. The trade balance also deteriorated, and market share declined. So we wanted to make a clear-sighted assessment of our strengths and weaknesses. Hence the Gallois report—and once again I want to pay tribute to the work he did, fully independently, to tell us where we were and where we had to go.
Following this report, which was presented in November 2012, I made a number of decisions, particularly to restore businesses’ margins by means of the Competitiveness and Employment Tax Credit. I then confirmed these [decisions] through the Responsibility Pact. This unprecedented effort today accounts for euro30 billion. It’s largely behind the recovery of businesses’ margins—which have returned to pre-crisis levels—, and there hasn’t been the slightest loss of purchasing power, because it’s not salaries that are being roped into the effort but the government, through tax reductions.
But competitiveness isn’t just about labor costs, even though today we’re at levels comparable to our German neighbors: it’s also about energy costs. They’ve clearly fallen, given what’s happened with oil and gas prices. But in France we have a competitive advantage, namely that the electricity price is markedly lower than it is for our European neighbors.
On the other hand, we had a problem with offsetting carbon prices in what are called the electro-intensive industries, i.e. those using a lot of energy, which can be traditional industries or industries of the future.
We’ve made sure to offset these additional costs in such a way that our businesses can also be the best placed in this competition.
We’ve also—and I was especially keen to do this—ringfenced the R&D tax credit, which doesn’t exist anywhere else and which, for businesses of all sizes—small, medium and large—provides lasting support for innovation and research: not only research jobs but also investment in machines and the invention of tomorrow’s products.
This accounts for euro6 billion, and so in comparative tax terms it’s an advantage for France.
I’ve also, particularly in recent months, wanted there to be a strong incentive for investment. I’ve introduced the increased depreciation mechanism—which enables businesses that are going to invest or have already invested to reduce their corporation tax—and made it a permanent fixture. All businesses that make orders in the coming months will still have this advantage.
Here too—this is an essential condition if we want to make progress in every field, in particular industry—we must invest. It’s especially necessary today, when the public accounts have to some extent been restored and company accounts put back on a sound footing. There’s room not only for public investment but also private investment. What will make the difference amid globalization as we know it—with competition that will be increasingly fierce and with China, the emerging countries and the United States as well, especially if there’s a protectionist tendency—is the ability to be the best when it comes to technology, expertise and therefore specialization.
French industry has long been accused of focusing on middle-of-the-range products and therefore suffering in comparative cost terms. Today we must be the best, not only in terms of cost—we’ve made the necessary efforts—but also in terms of specialization.
What results can we already see? That investment is picking up again, but there’s also been an industrial strategy, which began in 2013 with The New Face of Industry in France, where we identified several major areas that were going to turn industry upside down: mobility, the Internet of Things, sustainable cities, the bio-economy and Big Data. We concentrated our capabilities, our resources, on these major priorities, in such a way that France could get a head start and make full use of new technologies. They’re visible here: 3D printing, augmented reality, the possible medicine of tomorrow, predictive maintenance, virtual models, and robotics—because in France we have fewer robots than many of our neighbors. (...)
In a world marked by uncertainty, by people losing traditional bearings and in which there is a growing temptation to be inward-looking, France must go on promoting the values of solidarity, openness and reaching out to the world. This is essential, because if we let things happen without resolving problems, it will be a victory for regression and decline, and that’s something our country can’t accept.
In line with our diplomacy, and as the main instrument of our policy of development and international solidarity, the French Development Agency (AFD) plays a key role in promoting sustainable development and heightening France’s impact on the world. This is why the French President set it some very proactive goals, matching the importance of the Agency’s mission. I’m thinking, for example, of the goal of reaching an annual level of more than €12 billion-worth of activities by 2020, and the goal of increasing its financial support for the fight against climate change from €3 to 5 billion a year by 2020.
These goals reflect the depth of our ambition. They will have to be achieved, in close cooperation with the state, which is responsible for political priorities and resources. Moreover, the alliance forged today with the Caisse des dépôts et consignations (1) will allow us to align these two essential players’ priorities to help promote sustainable development in France and on the international scene.
Given the many challenges we face and in consultation with France’s main development players, the government has embarked on a profound overhaul of our policy of development and international solidarity. This overhaul resulted in the passing of the framework and estimates act on development—the Fifth Republic’s first—in July 2014. It has now reached a decisive moment, with a second meeting of the CICID [Interministerial Committee for International Cooperation and Development] on 30 November. Back in 2012, the government took the opportunity to reaffirm its determination to bring our intervention instruments up to date, in the context of increased financial resources allotted to the development assistance policy: as the next budget [Finance Bill] finishes being considered in Parliament, more than euro360 million extra is due to be made available in 2017, demonstrating the government’s determination to put into practice the commitments made by the Head of State.
With a clear, renewed mandate, a new strategic project and increased resources, the AFD is embarking on a new, exciting stage to do more and better to fight poverty and promote development. Your representatives, whom I meet everywhere in the course of my visits all over the world, firmly believe in our mission to fight poverty and restore hope, with the support of all stakeholders in society. They are there, waiting, not for assistance or charity—those times are over—but for us to help them create momentum, implement projects and cross the threshold of the new revolution in these developing countries which, thanks in particular to their powerful young people, are ready to take up this challenge. We must support it, it’s our mission. For a man, 75 years probably means twilight years... For the AFD, as we can see, it’s the start of a renaissance. I wish you all the energy and passion—I know you have it—to implement this project, which is both France’s project and a project we want to implement with every nation ready to opt for development, solidarity and fraternity, because we’ve got to remember that message too.
(1) State-owned financial institution which carries out public interest missions on behalf of French central, regional and local authorities.