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Réflexions sur les Plans de développement des Territoires français d'Outre-Mer / REFLECTIONS ON DEVELOPMENT PLANS IN THE FRENCH OVERSEA TERRITORIES

Gaston LEDUC
Civilisations
Vol. 6, No. 4 (1956), pp. 529-556
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41230234
Page Count: 28
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Réflexions sur les Plans de développement des Territoires français d'Outre-Mer / REFLECTIONS ON DEVELOPMENT PLANS IN THE FRENCH OVERSEA TERRITORIES
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Abstract

The French law of 30th April 1946 on the planning of the economic and social development of the French Oversea Territories is ten years old. Professor Leduc offers some observations on the working of this law and its results in the territories administered by France in Africa South of the Sahara (excluding French Somaliland and Réunion, this last territory having been made an oversea department by the 1946 reform). At the end of the war, the equipment in Oversea France was badly worn out; it had been impossible, at least for a certain period, to resort to the usual mechanism of financing « colonial » capital investments through public loans or the creation of new private concerns or new issues of capital of older ones. Metropolitan savings were themselves badly reduced, and the need for reconstruction absorbed all available resources. On the other hand, the political atmosphere had changed and required immediate and efficient action in the Oversea Territories from the standpoint of their social and economic development. That is how the Modernization and Equipment Plans came into being. The name implies that the pre-war system of voting public works for one particular territory, with no consideration for the territories as a whole, would be abandoned in the future. Financing was no longer to be ensured by loans covering « exceptional » ex- penditure and listed in « budgets extraordinary », but through the working of an administrative and financial system devised for a duration of at least ten years and aiming at a systematic development and modernization of the territories, with the purpose of achieving their economic and social progress. A Commission of Modernization and Equipment of the Oversea Territories, under the chairmanship of M. René Pleven, was to define the nature of the action which was to be carried out under the law. Individual initiative and the free utilization of privately owned goods were to be respected; but private capital investments would be supplemented in view of « the transformation of the territories into modern countries, with respect to their public and private equipment ». The Minister of Oversea France was given five ways of achieving this aim : establishment of State companies working on the same basis as private concerns and submitted only to an administrative control ex post; the creation of joint capital companies, the greater share of the capital belonging to the State or official bodies; approval of the creation and development of private enterprises whose activity would influence the execution of the plans; control of their management by the public authorities; the creation of councils, whose terms of reference would be to establish the necessary balance between the needs of individuals, development, the utilization and conservation of natural resources. The most remarkable innovation in regard to pre-war practices was to substitute the Metropolitan State for the private subscriber, thus partly replacing loans by subsidies, under two forms: a) an annual subsidy listed in the French budget; b) loans granted at a very small rate of interest (2,20 % in all) to the various territories usually for a period of twenty years, from the French budget through the Caisse Centrale de la France d'Outre-Mer. These loans aimed at allowing the territories themselves to contribute to the financing of the Plans by anticipating on their own resources, accruing from local taxes, etc... Experience showed that no important contributions could be expected from this source, either because of lack of resources, or of a tendency to expect gifts from a generous Metropolis, or because nothing prevented the territories from investing their local resources in expenditure outside the Plans. Financial coordination was to be ensured by the creation of the Fonds d'Investissements pour le Développement économique et social des Territoires d'Outre-Mer, commonly known as the F.I.D.E.S. Resources for this fund would be provided both from annual gifts of the Metropolis and from the territories' own contributions, mainly under the form of long term loans granted by the Caisse Centrale. The Fund is managed by the Caisse Centrale, under the control and direction of a Directing Committee presided by the Minister of Oversea France, and composed of ten M.P.'s and five officials appointed ex officio. A General Section comprises all expenditure in favour of the territories in general, « all expenditure entailed by scientific research, participation of the State in governmental or joint capital companies and in schemes interesting both the Metropolis and the Oversea territories as a whole ». Expenditure for each territory or Federation was grouped under different Oversea Sections, themselves divided into three headings : transport and communications, development of production, and social equipment. Expenses provided for in the Oversea Section were to be endorsed both by the local assemblies and by the Directing Committee of the F.I.D.E.S. In 1955, the Federations of French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa were both subdivided into a common section on the one hand, and as many sections as there were territories in each Federation, on the other hand. Expenditure planned under these latter sections would be endorsed by the Territorial Assembly. There is a tendency towards replacing annual grants by provisions covering a number of years. The rate of interest on loans granted by the Caisse Centrale to the territories in order to enable them to pay their share of capital expenditure under the Development Plans is the same for all territories, regardless of their particular conditions. The territories' share was also uniformly fixed first at 50 %, then at 75 % and finally at 90 % of the expenditure provided for in the Sections. The Caisse Centrale may make loans to official, semi-official or private concerns, or even to the territories themselves outside the framework of the Plans. These loans must be examined and approved by the Supervising Council of the Caisse, from the standpoint of their efficiency and possible revenue, and by the Directing Committee of the F.I.D.E.S., from the standpoint of their conformity with the general objectives of the Plan. The Caisse Centrale acts as a banker and unlike the British Colonial Development Corporation, for instance, never intervenes in the management of the concerns which borrow from her, although she exercises a severe control over them. By 1947, the Pleven Commission had drafted a Ten Year Development Plan subdivided into two five year periods. This plan was never formally endorsed by Parliament, although it was carried out in practice. In fact, the first five year period was extended to seven years (up till July 1st 1954), and the second period led to the drafting of another Development Plan, which was finally passed by law n° 342 of 27 March 1956, for a period covering the years 1954 to 1957. The only major inconvenience caused by this absence of legal approval during the first seven-year period was that the necessary resources had to be voted by Parliament every year, with the exception of an annual sum of 2,5 milliard Metropolitan francs granted to the Caisse Centrale. The same law of 27th March puts the Government under the obligation to submit to Parliament, before 1st March 1957, a bill approving a third Modernization and Equipment Plan. Up to the end of 1955, expenditure incurred by the F.I.D.E.S. and the Caisse Centrale for its own purposes amounted to a total of 531,5 billion Metropolitan francs. Capital expenditure outside the Plans both on the Metropolitan budget and on local public resources amount to another 135 billion francs for the same period. Although these sums may seem small in comparison with public investments in the Metropolis (800 billion francs a year) they still represent a considerable effort on the part of France, to which must be added the effort made in favour of North Africa and the four Oversea Departments. The distribution of the F.I.D.E.S. and Caisse Centrale funds to each territory under the Plans is largely proportional to the number of inhabitants, although other criteria arl of course applied, e. g. the potential revenue of investments. The nature of investments has changed in the last ten years. Investments under the first seven-year plan aimed mainly at creating basic services, whereas the second plan (1954-1957) is more particularly turned towards the improvement of living standards and also of production both in quantity and quality. Special attention should be brought to the remarkable effort undertaken under the second threeyear plan in favour of rural equipment and assistance to native peasants. Investments made by the Caisse Centrale on her own account show the importance attached to credits in favour of agriculture and building, electrical power (through joint capital societies) and the variety of assistance offered to the private sector. That the development of the oversea territories should not have been quick enough to enable local public resources to maintain the new equipment in good running order and to repay their borrowings from the Caisse Centrale is a problem that deserves close attention. Private investments have been much smaller than had been expected as a result of the creation of basic structures. In this respect, Oversea France presents a very different picture frqm the Belgian Congo. However, in spite of errors and some squandering of resources, the production of the territories concerned has in general developed quite remarkably, and after having answered criticism of the functioning of the F.I.D.E.S., M. Leduc concludes that the system created by the law of 1946 is much more flexible, complete and efficient than the pre-war system and that the economy of the French Union as a whole seems to have largely benefited from it.

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