Notre-Dame-des-Landes: les limites du referendum [France]

Editor’s Note: The importance of centrally and independently reviewed cost-benefit analyses is increasingly recognized as an essential tool of the modern administrative state. Translation courtesy of Bing Translate. The original French text is available here.

From: La Tribune

By Thomas Perroud et Nicolas Treich

A referendum does not assess the public interest of an infrastructure project. Thomas Perroud (Professor of Public Law, University of Aix Marseille) and Nicolas Treich (Toulouse School of Economics, INRA)

After the Sivens dam, the case of Notre-Dame-des-Landes (NDDL) again raises the problem of the popular acceptance of a public infrastructure project. The recent decision of the president of the Republic to use the referendum to try to put an end to the debate clearly marks a defiance towards representative democracy and, more fundamentally, she confronts two logics of public decision: the decision based on the popular choice and expertise-based. But is this a good idea?


No independent instances consulted

In the absence of independence, it is necessary to organize a second independent opinion to turn off the debates. Cost-benefit analysis is now a standard tool in the development of public policy. It is widely used in the United States, the European Commission, France or the United Kingdom. In all cases, it is prepared by the administration that bears the project. Everywhere, it is then sent to a unit responsible for monitoring the seriousness of the assessment. In the United States, this unit is called the OIRA, a service under the authority of the president. In the United Kingdom, the Regulatory Policy Committee, independent authority, is in charge of this work. At the level of the Union European, the Impact Assessment Board has been replaced by the Regulatory Scrutiny Board, independent of the departments of the Commission in charge of various sectorial policies.

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