A public service is an activity considered as front being available for all. This concept rests on that of General interest, but, too subjected to subjective appreciation, it does not have a universally received definition; in practice, is public service what the public power defines politically as tel. It is a concept distinct from that of Public sector.
The activities of a public service are subjected on certain points to a specific legal mode. But to supplement the distinction between public service and public sector, it will be noted that a community (State, Territorial collectivity) has the choice between
- to assume directly a public service
- and to delegate its management at a specific organization of the public sector or a concerning organization private law.
Concerning the functions of public service filled by the public sector, one distinguishes from this fact:
- those which concern the kingly functions, related to the sovereignty of the State,
- those which raise of the managed sector or the commercial sector but that the public sector took in hand.
The reason generally advanced in this last case is need for an essential or strategic general interest whose nature is considered noncompatible with the normal functioning of the market. Are quoted for example certain Infrastructure S single or essential, necessary to the operation of the state enterprises like private: Road S, principal railways, port S, joint bases of networks telephone fixes)…
History of the public service
The concept of public service is very recent, and it search for last equivalents is rather delicate. One can nevertheless, on the condition of being conscious of the great differences of social organization, to endeavor to find similarities.
In the medieval Europe , there were the banalities: a furnace, a mill, a press, a warehouse of the grains, etc) the provision of all, but that all had the obligation to use and to finance; the banal authority charged a right of use, which was also an occasion of tax perception. In the same way, the communes ensured the operation of the public fountains, the maintenance of the ramparts, the night guet, etc, and employed for this purpose of the personnel (slaves or " officier" , i.e. holder of the office corresponding).
The colbertism also marks a concern of utilizing the state, including, already, in the objective to give work to those which in do not have (for religious reasons, but also for very laic reasons, because désœuvrés are subjects too stirring up)
With the Age of Enlightenment of social contract was born the concept, which concretized with the French revolution: the leader is not then seen any more like a Master, but as an organizer to whom one delegated the management and the administration of the community properties. The tax is then used to ensure this management.
In France, until the Second world war, the public service missions are frequently carried out by private companies. About the Second world war, state enterprises are created to carry out an important part of the public service (such as for example the SNCF in 1938), of the private companies continuing to ensure a public service by delegation.
Certain activities were always asserted by the State or what held place of it with the Moyen-âge, the king. For this reason they are named functions Régalien born . As follows:
- the fight against an external danger (Armed);
- the Justice;
- the maintenance of law and order (police force);
- the military mercenariat was the rule a long time, so that no matter who, provided that it has of gold or interesting proposals for a plundering, could raise an army to defend himself or attack.
- if all the sovereigns were well judges in last spring (one would say today: in call or cassation), ordinary justice could be managed by other authorities, a lord or a " sage" recognized.
- the research and the repression of the crime could and even were be mainly the business of the victims themselves, or their close relations, the authority especially seeking to limit the range of the reprisals to avoid the climbing of revenge; the activity of the authority was then primarily political: to supervise its opponents, to avoid and if necessary repressing the riots.
One adds also sometimes the emission of currency, although the monopoly is a very recent creation, the rule under the mode of the metal standard being, on the contrary, the existence of many active moneies on the same territory.
One could as add the management of the crisis situation and famine, as the sovereign was to treat as well by charity as to avoid the riots, revolts, even revolutions.
Thus, while at the same time the functions known as kingly are generally regarded as technically and morally difficult to sub-contract at privately held companies, it appears that our old found on the contrary that easy and normal! On the matter, one thus observes a great variation according to the places and the times. The evolution of the company can also make emerge the need of new public services, as it can make some certain useless (by abundance, or obsolescence).
The expression “public service” corresponds to a concept particularly developed in France for historical reasons, even if it often indicates, in the plural, the administrations and certain establishments and state enterprises.
The concept of “public service” international and is very well developed in the Anglo-Saxon world as much as in France and elsewhere.
In France, “public service” can indicate as much the general concept, object of this article, that a service type, for example the distribution of electricity, or even the company which ensures this service, for example EDF (Électricité de France). The opening of the public monopolies, under the pressure of the European Union, should contribute to clarify these concepts (cf the '' White paper on the services of general interest '').
Confusions to be avoided
Note: the majority of the quoted examples result from the French context.
One often confuses the “public service” with large “the national state enterprises” like the the SNCF or EDF. However, a public service can:
- on the one hand, being returned by private companies: it is in particular the case of the distribution of water, or that of the medical care (Médecin S and Pharmacien S: private liberal professions, ambulance men), even of the Teaching (school S deprived under contract, subsidized by the State) or the Firemen (with the Denmark, a certain number of barracks are conceded at a private company of safety which in addition has an activity of transport of funds);
- conversely a state enterprise can have commercial activities, including in the competitive sector, like the SNCF for the transport of the people in TGV or the transport of Fret, or La Poste for the sendings whose weight is higher than 50g, or the harbor establishments for the supply of the tools, in France, handling in many other countries;
- in addition, the public service is not necessarily national:
- it can be organized on the regional plan or room, the Official Authority not being then the State, but the local government agencies: it is the case for example of the distribution of water, of the collecting of the household refuse, the school bus service… These services are organized by the community, in Régie, or by public agencies, or private companies within the framework of a Public service delegation;
- the supervision can even be Intergouvernemental E (like in the case of the system Galileo).
One tends also to confuse public service and Monopole. However of many public services are exerted within a competing framework: for example electronic communications, the audio-visual one… In certain cases, there is indeed monopoly when the service uses infrastructures which it would be too expensive, even absurd to duplicate to introduce the Concurrence: that corresponds to a situation of natural Monopole. It is the case for example railway network, and distribution grid systems of electricity, distribution of the mail… The legislation and European jurisprudence speak in this case about exclusive rights and special.
Management and organization
Financing and economy of the public servicesA public service can be financed directly by the recipients, and then does not pose a particular problem. But the business is frequently much more complicated, for various reasons, for example (without exhaustiveness)
- a notable fraction of the recipients is not enough solvent to take part,
- it is easy to profit from the service without to pay for him (" effect; passenger clandestin"),
- the service is actually, for that which profit from it, a nuisance and a constraint which he would prefer to avoid and certainly not to pay (example: justice, the prison),
- the service must be available constantly, but serves truly only exceptionally (example: army, firemen),
- the authority makes the choice arbitrarily render the service without to make it pay (example directly: distribution frumentaire, spectacle).
- a subsidy of the authorities, starting from the taxes or of another resource (returned mining or oil, leasing of a field or, nowadays, resources advertizing, etc)
- other recipients of the service, by the tariff equalization
- recipients of another service (profitable, him), that one binds authoritatively to that which one wants to finance.
In the last both cases (tariff equalization and bond with another profitable service), one could find convenient to found a monopoly, to prevent that an alternative operator renders the same service at a less cost because not burdened by the load with public service. This solution is abandoned today in Europe, not to distort competition and not to facilitate the rise of the prices which a monopoly makes possible. There remains on the other hand possible to oblige any operator of a sector to contribute at a public service, and thus to take part in a tariff equalization or to provide the service even under certain conditions where that costs him more than him does not pay (while profiting then from subsidy or the right to raise its tariffs on other sectors). See hereafter.
The competing and international aspect
The principal interest of a public service ensured by a State is which it would provide a service that could not return under the same conditions of the private actors. On the other hand, the public administration of certain economic sectors can lead to Monopole S of State which can, according to the liberals, to harm the emulation and the effectiveness: the rendered service would be of less quality and expensive than if it were subjected to competition. However, a state monopoly could contrary being advantageous for the user (consuming or customer in the private sector) insofar as the goal of the structure of State is not to be profitable, to earn money, but to provide a service of a certain quality for the community.
Some will say that it is because of the fact that a sector is occupied by a state monopoly, that the rendered service can be only less quality and expensive than if it were subjected to this competes with which is in general contradicted in the facts (examples: the Post office which significantly increases its tariffs since it is privatisée and is called the Postal bank, the private insurances, the private schools, etc require a financial participation of the user that their public equivalent does not require), competition unceasingly stimulating the organization of the line of business, and always with the tracking of the wasting of the money: thus, one will be able to notice that the French postal institution La Poste, accelerates since a few years his privatization (its finance department is from now on completely private), in particular by renewing his decayed material by new more modern but always also failing, and especially by reorganizing the use of his labor forces (by removing stations massively) on all the French national territory, and this, for the opening to competition on all the mails before 2010. Much will see in this opening to competition a chance, that to have the choice; but especially, much think that competition will cause a drop in the prices, “for an always better service” like to claim it the liberals. However, there still, the facts contradict these speeches. La Poste, of the time when it was a public service, knew to keep the price of the rather low stamp. Since its reorganization for the privatiser, it removed Coliéco, to keep only Colissimo (faster but expensive), the label " Mail suivi" to replace it by a labelled envelope " Mail suivi" (the price, there still is higher. There are not the choice. Whereas before we could choose not to buy un' a label, one must now buy the envelope and the label which is already stuck there). The massive suppression of employment with the Post office had as a consequence the closing of many counters, and an extra work for the remaining employees. What has for results in longer tails and waiting and a relation counter clerk/user more tended and more unpleasant. Moreover, the routing of the mails is slower. The idea according to which “privatization offers more choice, for less expensive tariffs and a better organization, faster and more effective”, thus does not make the weight vis-a-vis the observations on the ground.
Some see as favors public Monopole the suppression of the costs of competition (publicity, doubled blooms). The resources would be thus occupied to improve the service by research and the investment, because of a compromise on the price of the service if it is invoiced directly (it could in certain situations being financed by the budget of the State or being integrated in the socialized part of the wages). The emulation can come from the Coopération with foreign public services.
Some allot to the liberal thought serious threats on the public services, those aiming to restrict them and subject them to the Concurrence. This will, but also the concern of the States of not depending on companies which would belong in other States, nor to be vis-a-vis an unfair competition of those, results in international treaties, like the AGCS which leads to the progressive abolition by common agreement of controlling certain public service types. According to this agreement, these privatizations are irreversible.
Another question relates to the geographical perimeter of a public service what is related to the question of the Régionalisation and the transnational zones economic (European Union), even world.
Public service and European Union
See also: Public service in the European Union
The European Union, in its treaties, explicitly does not mention the public service that within the framework of transport (article 73 THIS). The European legislation and jurisprudence use usually concepts considered to be more precise and independent of the country:
- the “services of general interest” (SIG), services used for managed by the public authorities, either directly, or by delegation with thirds.
- the “services of general economic interest” (SIEG), subcategory of the SIG which concern the commercial sector.
There as a whole does not exist regulation of the SIG at the European level. Besides the term indicates sometimes only the only noncommercial SIG. The SIG thus remain of the competence of the Member States or the local government agencies. The Commission however recognized that the services of general interest “are in the middle of the European model of company” (communication of September 26th, 1996).
The European Union is interested on the other hand close to the SIEG, several times mentioned in the treaties (Article 16,73,86,87 THIS), without however defining them very precisely. The Commission and the Court of justice try to reconcile, within the framework of the SIEG, the respect of the public service missions with the principle of free competition, basic principle of the economic policy of the European Union. It is within this framework that the Commission follows a policy of Libéralisation principal services known as “of general economic interest” (SIEG). The principal sectors concerned are: energy (gas and electricity), transport (all modes), postal services and telecommunications.
It takes care particularly that the financings of public service by the States do not distort the play of competition, in particular on the following points:
- that the qualification of SIEG is not given to services which concern in fact exclusively the competitive market;
- that measurements taken ensure an effective operation of the SIEG;
- that there are no negative interferences on the markets open to competition apart from the public service.
Certain services were recognized like services of general interest by the jurisprudence of the Court of justice of the European Communities. As example, the Court recognized like SIEG (under certain precise conditions):
- collection, the transport and distribution of the mail;
- uninterrupted supply of electrical energy on the entirety of the conceded territory;
- the maintenance of the navigability of an important water way;
- water supply;
- supply of performances of service in the field of telecommunications;
- supply of means of fight against pollution in the harbor-basins;
- television programs.
To allow the introduction of competition into the services, the Commission pushes with the scission of the management of the infrastructures (when those concern a natural monopoly) of the exploitation of the services, all the owners having to see itself recognized a right of access equal to the infrastructure. It is what was made for telecommunications (on the level of the local loop, without the separation of the activities of network and supply being imposed), energy (gas and electricity), the railroads, the ports and airports.
The financing of the SIEG is left with the appreciation of the States: it can come either from a royalty perceived near the users, or of a compensation of public service allocated by the State, or of an equalization between profitable and nonprofitable activities of the owner, or of complementary commercial resources (example of the advertizing resources for television), or of a combination of these various resources.
Public services in France
See also: Public service in France
In France, the public lines of business can be classified in three categories:
- kingly Functions: they are the functions of sovereignty of the State. They are entirely financed by the tax and are ensured by public administrations.
noncommercial Sector: they are services, essentially free, financed mainly by the tax (or obligatory contributions). The establishments concern the administrative law, but these services associate also private organizations (under contract) and of associations.
When they ensure jointly of the services of the commercial sector (see will infra), the public agencies correpondants concern at the same time the administrative law and the commercial law.
Commercial sector: they are services financed mainly by an marketing activity, but which are regarded as front being under control of the community.
- Transport: urban transport, regional rail-bound transports (FOR THE THIRD TIME), school bus service, port services, airport services…;
- Energy: distribution of gas and transmission the electricity;
- Distribution of Drinking water;
- Distribution of the mail and financial products: La Poste;
- Electronic communications: services with high banc, voice services (telephony) and of data transmission, broadcasting.
- Undertaking: consequence of the laws of sépartaion of the churches and the State, the monopoly of the burials was removed at the organizations pertaining to worship and entrusted exclusively to the communes, which directly exert it or by delegation. It is about the Service external of the undertaking.
The public corporations, known as industrial and commercial which ensures some of these services, sometimes jointly with noncommercial services, raise at the same time of the Administrative law and the commercial law.
Public services in Germany
See also: Public service in Germany
The organization of the public services in Germany ( Daseinsvorsorge ) is geographical and nonsectoral: whereas, in France, a national entity in general manages in a centralized way the public service of a given sector (with exceptions like the management of water), in fact municipal companies ( Stadtwerke ) manage a whole of public services of several different sectors.
At the beginning of the 19th century the local government agencies started to provide public services without intervention of the State. They entrusted thereafter the management of these services to public corporations. The management of these public services was organized in a transverse way to several sectors in order to profit for example from an easier access to the funding sources.
Public services in the world
Each country has its own practice as regards public services.
Out of maritime matter, certain common habits (obligation of help, etc) or the services of positioning (GPS, Glonass and soon Galileo) can be connected at the public service.
the international project of the most ambitious public service of the moment (July 2004), in any case technically, is under development by the European space agency (ESA): it is about the installation of six devices safety of planet against the géocroiseurs. Here the official statement of the ESA on this subject: '' Missions to protect our planet from the threats of cosmos ''
the existence of the Amazon forest , insofar as it is used as thermal regulator or of tank of oxygen and Puits of carbon is regarded by certain as public service rendered by Brazil with all the planet , and that the effort would have to be remunerated to keep this forest in the state.
- Political Welfare state
- Service-public.fr, French governmental gate.
- Analysis of the newspaper '' the Echoes ''
- great principles of the public service, Laws of Roland
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