Posts Tagged ‘Economist’

Again in innovation, French companies score high marks

November 16th, 2011 No comments

It must be innovation week…

In another poll on innovation (Thomson Reuters Top 100 Global Innovators), France has 11 companies on the list (the 3rd most behind Japan with 27 and America with 40). The brilliant chaps over at The Economist have a nice article on this, below here for easy reading (France boldfaced for emphasis on my part).

Where innovation lies
Nov 16th 2011, 16:54 by The Economist online

Where are the world’s most innovative companies and what do they do?

Companies that make semiconductors and other electronic components are collectively the most innovative industry, according to an analysis of patents carried out by Thomson Reuters, an information-services provider. Its “Top 100 Global Innovators” report rates companies by the proportion of their patent applications that are granted; the number of “quadrilateral” patents (those granted in China, Europe, Japan and America); how often patents are cited by other companies; and whether patents relate to new techniques or inventions or are refinements of existing ones. This approach is intended to overcome the limitations of using the number of patents filed or granted as a measure of innovation. Of the 100 companies in the list, which is not ranked and relates to patent activity from 2005-2010, 40 are from America, 27 from Japan and 11 from France. No Chinese companies qualified. The report says this “underscores the fact that although China is leading the world in patent volume, quantity does not equate to influence and quality.”

Sep 11 memorial commemorations in France

September 9th, 2011 No comments

I hope this somber anniversary we will be safe in remembering those lost. As we move closer to a sense of closure, we can’t forget to move forward positively.

The BBC has a special report on this year’s annivesary, the Economist as well.

French daily Figaro also has a special dossier.

The famous French daily Le Monde printed a moving op-ed the day after the attacks of September 11, 2001 (available in English here, image of newspaper cover here).

Ten years later, the French have not forgotten their old ally in commemorating the 10th anniversary of the attacks. There are several events throughout the country. These are a selection. If you have more, feel free to post in the comments section for all to see.

The American Embassy in Paris also has a very informative page on 9/11 in Paris.

-Sep 11, 4:30-7:30pm: The American Church in Paris Sep 11 “Becoming a Blessing”

-On Sep. 11 at Paris Trocadero, a French association will be honoring the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with small replicas of the Twin Towers. Information can be found on Facebook, from FACC Chicago and this website.

-Sep 11, 11am Grenoble region: Association France-Etats Unis with Peachtree Fire Department of Georgia. Event PDF

Bonjour Paris: Sarkozy’s new cabinet

November 20th, 2010 No comments

In this week’s Bonjour Paris, a great resource, I write a piece analyzing French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s new cabinet after the reshuffling. It talks about changes, Prime Minister François Fillon, the French economy, Bettencourt scandal, Sarkozy’s 10 big challenges for the remainder of his administration and 2011 Senate elections and 2012 presidential election. Excerpts below.

Just an FYI: there are strikes planned for Nov. 23 against the now lost-cause of retirement reform, but they are not expected to cause much disruption. Nonetheless I will update my blog Nov. 22 with any relevant information.

As promised, President Nicolas Sarkozy finally carried out the long-awaited reshuffling of his cabinet. This is a traditional move by French presidents during their administrations, regarded as an effort to regain popularity and credibility after facing approval-rating problems. Mr. Sarkozy has certainly had those.

The Economist cites a poll by Ifop that puts Sarkozy’s approval rating at 36% and that of Prime Minister François Fillon at 55%. This is one principal reason Fillon was kept in office – defying the modern trend of presidents changing prime ministers once or twice per administration. In fact, as the same article notes: “If he keeps his job until 2012, M. Fillon will become the first prime minister in modern times to have survived a president’s entire term.” This is due in part because “his calm, reassuring style makes him the antidote to the hyperkinetic president.”

So the fact that Fillon stayed on makes this both an uneventful reshuffling and an exceptional one. You can see a group photograph and learn the names of all cabinet members on the Elysée website here. You can also read coverage of it in the New York Times. Some of the most notable changes come at Defense Minister (old: Hervé Morin; new: Alain Juppé) and Foreign Minister (old: Bernard Kouchner; new: Michèle Alliot-Marie). Overall, it is a government that is more right of center, and one of the most unsurprising changes was at Budget Minister, where François Baroin replaced Eric Woerth. Woerth had been entangled in the Bettencourt scandal. But Nicolas Sarkozy supported him fully in a speech to France about his reshuffling.

Sarkozy will face 10 big challenges during the second half of his term, according to weekly Le Point: strengthening his UMP party unity for 2012; regaining approval ratings; keeping the French Senate to the right (Senatorial elections are in September 2011 and could swing left); reforming fiscal policy; financing aid for the elderly; supporting employment; improving France’s image abroad; getting support from students and the youth with convincing plans; and mastering the internet.

For more information, The Economist has quality coverage of this event. France 24 also covers it.

The challenge now is implementing further reforms – on the heels of the unpopular retirement pension reform now law – to improve the French economy while remaining popular enough to have a chance at reelection in 2012. But there are already many candidates from several parties waiting in the wings, most notably IMF head and Socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn and former Prime Minister conservative Dominique de Villepin.

French ongoing strikes Oct. 12, and perhaps more after

October 11th, 2010 1 comment

If you’re lounging in the sun at Jardin Luxembourg, know that heated debate is going on in the Sénat building next to you.

Following strikes and demonstrations Sep. 7, Sep. 23 and Oct. 2 against government proposals to reform the pension and retirement system in France (including raising the general age from 60 to 62), the main unions (CFDT, CFTC, CGT, FO, SUD, UNSA-GATC…) have called for yet another day of “action” on the streets.

Laurence Parisot, President of MEDEF (the National Council of French Employers, basically a CEO club), said these strikes would continue to undermine the reputation of France abroad as a reliable place to do business. Prime Minister François Fillon meanwhile said it could well take a “decade” before France balances its budget. As The Economist wrote, President Sarkozy is trying to pass this crucial reform in the midst of a reputation comeback effort at home and abroad.

Conservative daily Le Figaro presents a great special report on the retirement reform here. It also stated that this is a “decisive week” for the strike movement, but only 31% of French support a strike that could be extended during this week or longer but 71% support the reasons behind the social movement, nuances that match historical support for resistance to government reform that is badly needed to get the government budget in order. Many strikers want to see taxes raised on the wealthy, such as an elimination of the current ceiling of 50% tax rate on the wealthiest.

RATP, the Parisian region transport authority, has posted updates for tomorrow’s traffic here. Metro lines 1, 11, 14 should have no problems. Line 6 will have 75% traffic; lines 3, 4 , 8, 13 will have 66% traffic; and line 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12 will have 50% traffic. For RER suburban rail lines, RER A will have 50% traffic, RER B will have 20% traffic (so for CDG airport, I’d advise you to take alternate transport: Roissybus to/from metro Opéra, a taxi or Air France shuttles). Orly transport options are listed too.

SNCF, the national railway operator, has posted information as well here on the possibly ‘ongoing’ strikes (so, which could be repeated over several days). You can find information for other metro areas transport below, mostly in French. You can see the status of departures and arrivals in the main train stations at Gares en Mouvement website, one of the few things I like at SNCF (though overall I wish the U.S. had an impressive HSR system)

Aéroports de Paris (which runs Orly, Roissy Charles de Gaulle and Beauvais airports) said to expect possible delays, cancellations and other inconveniences on Oct. 12, notably because of Air France workers on strike. Air France posts information here on the strikes.

Other major cities and their transport systems below with relevant updates:
Lyon, Grenoble, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Lille, Nice, Nantes, Rennes, Dijon, Brest, Caen, La Rochelle, Le Havre, Montpellier

Bon courage to everyone. Just take a deep breath, buy a baguette, drink some vin rouge, and complain against strikers. You’re becoming French by the moment. There are many wonderful things in this country, try to enjoy your time here!

France to cut 10 billion in tax breaks

With France facing a budget deficit and aiming to make cuts in spending while increasing revenue for the government (and implementing reforms such as the controversial retirement age raise…), it’s no surprise that the government has made this move. For economic background, here’s a brilliant guide from the Economist on Europe’s debt crisis.

For now it seems like France is taking the right actions for now, as its debt ratings from Moody’s remain in good condition. But there have been concerns and warnings that France could face long-term debt problems and thus a credit down-rating (thus undermining their ability to finance the state debt through treasury bonds). Thus it’s important that France continues to reform its system (such as raising the retirement age from 60, the lowest in Europe).

This is from Agence France Presse, taken from the Expatica website.

France to abolish 10 billion euros in tax breaks

President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Friday plans to abolish tax breaks worth 10 billion euros per year, as part of France’s plans to reduce its large public deficit.A statement issued after Sarkozy met his senior economic ministers said general taxation would not increase but that 10 billion euros (12.8 billion dollars) would be raised by abolishing various special tax regimes.

“Any resulting excess in revenues will be entirely assigned to reducing the deficit,” it said, promising to continue with policies of only replacing one retiring civil servant in two and of freezing local government funding. Sarkozy has vowed to maintain state spending at current levels, apart from interest payments and pensions, for the next three years as France battles to bring its ballooning deficit under control.

© 2010 AFP

Yes “Oui” Can? Informing the Healthcare Debate: The French Example

November 12th, 2009 2 comments

An original piece originally published in September on Scoop44 (now ScoopDaily):

By Michael Barrett / September 7th, 2009

As the healthcare debate remains intense in Washington and across the country, leaving fiery protests at town hall meetings in its wake, one way to have a more knowledgeable discussion is by looking to examples of healthcare in other countries.

The Obama administration has been criticized by some conservatives as wanting to impose a socialist system in not just healthcare but also in economic matters. One of the countries referred to the most by both critics and proponents of Obama’s policies is France, the supposed beacon of socialism and the welfare state. It is important, however, to get beyond ideologies and examine the facts. What could the U.S. learn from the French healthcare system, both what to do and what not to do?

France’s public health system provides a basic form of mandatory health coverage for everyone, including foreign residents like myself with valid working papers. The main fund, Sécurité Sociale (Sécu), covers 80 percent of the population, and two other entities exist for the self-employed and agricultural workers. France also provides options for those ineligible for Sécu or below a certain salary threshold.

Everyone covered by the system uses a health insurance card resembling a debit card, called a Carte Vitale. This is equipped with a computer chip that can be read by doctors’ and pharmacists’ computers to access a patient’s insurance coverage information. All French citizens from 16 years old are required to have one; those younger are on their parents’ plans. While practical, this card can represent the excessive paperwork and hurdles that foreign residents must get through in order to obtain one. It took me several months to get my Carte Vitale, somewhat delayed because I had provided one too many pieces of identity for their comfort.

This notorious bureaucracy makes even the French cringe, but there is a silver lining: when getting laid off from a job does not result in losing a steady health insurance plan, the benefits seem worth the hassle. These are reaped not only individually but also economically. Indeed, the French social safety net played a role in bringing France officially out of the recession this past quarter, providing a stable foundation for increased consumption and other economic activity.

In addition to the public system, there exists a huge private market for health insurance in the form of supplementary medical plans known as mutuelles. These tend to pay for some of the costs not covered well by Sécu. Most French opt for these; the Boston Globe puts the rate at 90 percent of the population. For non-E.U. citizens moving to France, private medical insurance is mandatory.

These mutuelles are run by private insurers that offer a variety of plans to different groups, from students to professionals (and this is again subdivided into job sectors, like teachers). They often cover expenses not already paid for by the Sécu. For example, the standard doctor’s consultation will cost 22€ (about $31) and Sécu will normally reimburse 70% of this, or 15.40€. The mutuelle will usually make up some or all of the difference. My mutuelle is with the LMDE (la mutuelle des étudiants – student’s private option), which along with the other student option (SMERRA),offer beneficial plans to students in coverage and cost.

I just upgraded mine, and it will help cover most prescription costs, doctor visits, some dental and eye appointments as well as hospital stays. The cost for my total coverage per year? 393€ (195€ for Sécu, 198€ for LMDE) – about $560 a year ($47 a month). Not bad, considering that this covers the entirety of my asthma prescription costs for medicines I take daily, for which I’d pay a lot in the U.S. even with insurance. Not to mention a good portion of the costs incurred for hospital visits, dentist appointments and other procedures.

This is one of the key differences between the French and American systems. In the U.S., if you are prone to illness or have a chronic condition, health insurance providers will often either increase your payments or drop your coverage. As stated in the Boston Globe article, the French system makes it “more difficult for insurers to deny coverage for preexisting conditions or to those who are not in good health.”

Another difference is that associated with unemployment. If you lose your job in the U.S. and are not covered by government employee plans, you will likely have to pay more for private health insurance than through a company-provided scheme. In France, everyone is covered by the public option so that even those laid off by their employers don’t have to fear enormous costs in going to the doctor in case of illness.

One more aspect is that when ambulances are dispatched to treat injuries, a doctor comes along with appropriate equipment to start treating the patient at the scene before going to the hospital for further care. This was featured by CBS news.

The benefits can be seen in many ways, such as life expectancy: France is ranked 7th among UN nations (77 years for men, 84 for women), whereas the U.S. is at 35th (75 for men, 80 for women). Moreover, the World Heath Organization (WHO) has ranked France’s healthcare system as the best (though debatable). Indeed, according to the Boston Globe article, France’s ranking is based on “its universal coverage, responsive healthcare providers, patient and provider freedoms, and the health and the longevity of the country’s population.” The U.S. comes in at a meager 37th place. People like Fox News anchor Glen Beck should reconsider their statements.

Image: The Economist

So we see that the system in France has positive aspects, but what could be the costs of such a universal scheme? It does not come cheap, at about $3500 per capita (Boston Globe), but it is much less expensive than the U.S. ($6100). In terms of overall spending, France devotes 10.5% of its GDP to healthcare, whereas America spends 16%. More on the U.S compared to other countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) can be found in this 2004 report. As addressed by Medical News Today, the financing for the public health system is provided for by employers, employee contributions and personal income taxes, with around 20 percent of a working person’s gross salary deducted to pay for the Sécu.

There should be no surprise, therefore, that French authorities are trying to cut down on costs in the system. According to this article, instead of years ago when people would go to any doctor they wanted, “family doctors must now coordinate treatment.” I have witnessed this in France, where a patient must have the approval of his or her general practitioner before going to a specialist for a specific problem (exceptions: gynecologists, ophthalmologists and dentists – no need for referral).

There certainly needs to be reform in the U.S. of some sort. Indeed, the majority of Americans view the U.S. health system as “average” or “below average” according to the Pew Research Center. Even if a public option comes into existence in the U.S., it would likely not be mandatory for everyone, unlike the French system. The crux of the debate is whether or not a government-run public option would result in healthy competition with private insurers and lower premiums or if it would dominate the market and be a weight on business. A public health insurance option in the U.S. might dramatically increase coverage, but it will be vital in the long-term to reduce cost. Streamlining government bureaucracy could contribute to that endeavor.

Policymakers in Washington would be wise to take heed from French lessons of mixing public with private insurers. According to the American Journal of Public Health, these lessons include: “the importance of government’s role in providing a statutory framework for universal health insurance” and “understanding that universal coverage can be achieved without excluding private insurers from the supplementary insurance market.”

We can learn from France without becoming France, taking what works and leaving aside any nuisance to long-term growth while encouraging innovation to reduce costs, increase coverage and improve medicines. Our collective health depends on it.

If you would like a very in-depth analysis of the benefits and pitfalls of France’s whole economic system, I invite you to read the Economist article cited here. You can find more info on the French social protection system here and on this site.

Doing business in Paris

November 11th, 2009 No comments
Categories: Business, Paris Tags: , ,
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