This independent blog collects news about projects or achievements in regulatory reform / better regulation. It is edited by Charles H. Montin. All opinions expressed are given on a personal basis.
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26 October 2010

Iraq regulatory reform vacancy notice

Regulatory reform is part of the agenda for the reconstruction of Iraq, as documented by a study published by CIPE. This means employment opportunities, as indicated by an announcement by UNJobs for expert positions to support Iraq regulatory reform, within the context of the Iraq National and Provincial Administrative Reform Project. This is a four-year USAID-funded national and provincial-level capacity strengthening project seeking to improve services delivery processes through better governance and resource management approaches. Attention: closing date 29 October.

OECD takes centre stage on regulatory policy

Later this week, the OECD will be the world capital of regulatory quality with a two day conference on “Regulatory Policy at the Crossroads: towards a new policy agenda”. More than 300 delegates will be meeting in the brand new conference centre to reflect and discuss the future, and flesh out its promising new incarnation, “regulatory governance.” Experts will be looking for new trends, academics will be seeking advanced paradigms, and practitioners will be trying to learn from colleagues on how to deal with improving the quality and effectiveness of regulation.

Admin burdens on citizens

I have recently discovered another website on our regulatory issues, with a catchy name “What A Relief!” The site comprises some resources (9 documents), but nothing very recent.
Who is behind this? Quote from the site:  ‘Under the umbrella of the European Public Administration Network, a Learning Team on reducing administrative burdens for citizens was established. During four meetings in 2008, the participants of the Learning team will work together intensively, to learn more about the national approaches and methodologies to measure and to reduce administrative burdens for citizens and to improve public service delivery. More than 20 countries are participating in this learning team and it has already produced some interesting results (see also publications).
To strengthen the cooperation between the participants of both the “What a relief!” seminar and the EUPAN Learning Team it was decided to set up a common website. This website will serve to exchange news, results, best practices, manuals and other publications on improving public service delivery with less administrative burdens for citizens. The website is sponsored and hosted by the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.”
A nice initiative, a pity it is not maintained.
This group advertises a 3 day seminar on 3-5 November in Utrecht, seemingly reserved to invited persons.

22 October 2010

Reactions to Commission's smart regulation paper

For a good summary of first reactions of stakeholders to COM(2010)543, see Euractiv dossier.
Not unexpectedly, the reactions were in general quite critical, especially from the business world, mainly on the perceived failure of the Commission to give a practical and prioritized content to the new concept, and improve RIAs following the ECA audit.

Simplification law nearing adoption in France

Today the French Senat examined today in a second reading the bill on simplification and improvement of the quality of the law which was tabled in August 2009 by Mr Warsman, the chairman of the legal committee of the National Assembly. The bill contains some 145 articles, most of them very technical, but there are a few illuminating breakthroughs, or at least signs that the never-ending war on red tape is still on. For example:
Article 3 seeks to reduce paperwork by allowing administrations to exchange data to avoid asking citizens for duplicates of official documentation already held by another service (example birth certificate). Citizens may even refuse to provide copies of documents arguably already submitted. This is a further advance on the very specifically French approach successfully launched with the 12 April 2000 law on “relations between citizens and the Administration”.
Article 8 offers the possibility of substituting formal consultation of an official body by an internet consultation or any other suitable channel.
The other articles, several of which are directly transposing the Services Directive, should not be dismissed because they sound so very technical. But retrospectively, they do show a recognition of how far the over-administration of the country has reached, and are perhaps only the tip of the iceberg.

Higher profile for EP in EU decision-making

The European Parliament approved on 20 October (in plenary)  the text of  a revised Framework Agreement giving relations with the European Commission a new scope and paving the way for MEPs to have more power in EU decision-making. MEPs recognised the Commission's commitment to giving equal treatment to the Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers. The principle will apply particularly to gaining access to meetings and documentation on legislative and budgetary issues. The Parliament will also get more access to classified and confidential information and will play an enhanced role in the Union's programming: the College of Commissioners will have to meet with leading MEPs before adopting the EU's Annual Work Programme. Moreover, the Parliament will be kept informed of all developments in the EU's international negotiations – particularly those concerning trade deals. MEPs will also be kept abreast of Commission meetings with national experts on EU legislation. According to how these new arrangements are understood and implemented, there will or there will not be progress in the quality of EU law-making.

20 October 2010

North American anti- red tape "Czars"

Brian Mulroney, former Canadian PM, suggested last night that the government “appoint a Regulatory Czar with a specific one-year mandate to act on the serious analyses already on record and cut through the bureaucratic swamp of overlapping and outdated regulations that serve no real public policy purpose.” (as reported in the Canadian “National Post”)
Such a position has existed for a while in the US, and the current incumbent, Cass Sunstein, judging by the number of Google hits, is quite a celebrity. Any reaction from our US or CND experts?

19 October 2010

What next for BR in the UK?

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has just published a very interesting report on how they view the development of better regulation in the UK, undoubtedly one of the pioneers and currently the most advanced country in this field. In the introduction, ACCA describes its purpose: “At a time when the regulatory reform agenda in Britain and abroad is facing increasing skepticism from both its supporters and its detractors. Written with the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in mind, Coming of Age: What Next for the UK Regulatory Reform Agenda? draws on the experience of ACCA’s members, on the views of our respected and influential SME Committee, on ACCA’s own experience as a (self-)regulator and on an extensive review of the literature on regulatory reform in Europe and beyond.” The approach is also presented as “Based on a template of regulation-as-taxation, it builds on first principles to discuss the fundamental shortcomings of the UK’s Better Regulation programme and how it can be reformed in order to deliver better outcomes for small and medium-sized enterprises”. A most valuable contribution to the discussion, with both lessons learnt from past BR programmes and conceptual advances. Our thanks to E. Schizas from ACCA.

Smart Regulation: a critical analysis

The European Commission’s 8 October communication on smart regulation closes was awaited as a key document concluding a cycle of reflection and consultation on the new contours of regulatory quality and a roadmap of future steps to achieve it at the European level.
As a contribution to a book to be published at the end of the year, I have drafted a full-length critical analysis of this “year I of smart regulation”, outlining the origins of the change and the relevance and impact of the changes. Here are some of the points that I develop in my article:
Better regulation had not yet achieved its full impact: the simplification effort had not yet truly reduced the perceived overgrowth and complexity of European law, in spite of the claim that the number of legal texts had been reduced. In spite of the few major successes (the VAT reform to introduce electronic invoicing for instance) the cutting red tape program which is supposed to run until 2012 needs to deliver significant additional measures in a greater number of areas of legislation, like statistics, accounting, environment, etc. All in all, in no way can it be said that better regulation had already reached the objectives set for it by its initial promoters: EU law still gives an impression of complexity and bureaucracy, the decision making process has not been made that much more transparent;
In this context the innovations introduced by smart regulation can be welcome if they do not undermine or slow down the sustained delivery of ongoing better regulation results. The two main changes in SR are 1/ the broadening of the ambition of the strategy to “make markets work for people” which is wider than “simplify the regulatory environment for business”; 2/ the new emphasis on the content of policy and legislation, which must become “smart”, i.e. deliver effectively on the full range of public policy objectives, rather than reducing the volume of legislation and its burden on companies.
This new approach will have to avoid running into some well-known pitfalls. By giving more attention on the content of regulation and requiring more evidence to justify reform, it opens the way for additional bureaucratic prerequisites, running the risk of focusing more on the process, and not enough on the outcome. The shift is not exempt from technical challenges, as the evaluation methods will need to be adjusted to accommodate SR goals. By insisting on the technical evaluation of evidence in support of decision making, SR may dilute the political initiative and further insulate the regulators from the pressure of the stakeholders. These will be some of the challenges facing smart regulation and also the criteria against which to assess its future achievements. Comments welcome !

Better Regulation in France

The OECD has just published “Better Regulation in Europe: France 2010”, in the “EU15” series. This report maps and analyses the various components of regulatory management in France, assessing current policy and practice and offering suggestions for regulatory policy and reform in the future. This is the most comprehensive and unbiased overview of what is happening in France in regulatory quality and will remain a reference for all experts interested in the French approach.

08 October 2010

Report of the European Court of Auditors on the Commission's Impact Assessment

This blog has reported on the preliminary findings of the ECA. Now the final report (79 pages) was published on 28 September.  This document gives a thorough update on current issues and makes a number of reasonable suggestions for improvement. The two most interesting parts are:
  •   the two page executive summary:
  •  the response of the Commission which implicitly gives a list of outstanding issues, including: the recent strengthening of the effect of IAB decisions, the question of IAs on EP substantial amendments, consultation on draft IAs, the use of quantifiable indicators, and many others.

Smart Regulation officially defined

Today, the European Commission issued a key document for the understanding of its most recent concept to address regulatory quality, smart regulation. According to the press release, the Commission has set out plans to further improve the quality and relevance of EU legislation. It will evaluate the impact of legislation during the whole policy cycle: when a policy is designed, when it is in place, and when it is revised. The Commission will work with the European Parliament, Council and Member States to encourage them to apply smart regulation in their work. Finally, to strengthen the voice of citizens and other stakeholders, the Commission has decided to increase the period of its public consultations from 2012 onwards. The communication itself is not yet online, but should soon be so. The moderator of this blog, Charles-Henri Montin had been preparing an analysis of the move to smart regulation for the network of BR experts, now published in draft on http://regplus.eu/ The conclusions are not yet finalised.

Administrative simplification in Viet Nam: impressive results

This blog naturally concentrates on regulatory quality issues in Europe. But now and again, it is good to take a look at what is happening elsewhere, to examine whether RQ can help developing/ transition countries to improve governance and support economic growth. The case of Viet Nam is particularly interesting as it is an example of an ambitious administrative simplification program launched as one of the main components of public administration reform, with the assistance of several international donors (USAID, Japan, Australia, Denmark and others) . The approach has been, under “Project 30” to inventory, make known to interested parties via an online database and streamline all the “administrative procedures (APs)” in application (a reduction of 30% in number): see the ministry’s simplification website in English for the official objectives and methods.  This entailed defining a specific national method for inventorying APs, and for assessing them against the three criteria of legality, necessity and user-friendliness. Infra-national levels of government (provinces, districts and communes) were mobilized in the effort, and sometimes go beyond national policies. Several cities have set up their own programs, for instance Ha Noi’s electronic portal, d. Other programmes concerning the legal system, under the aegis of the ministry of justice, are also underway, with positive RQ impacts. There is a wealth of documentation on the internet concerning these projects, the best recent summary being published by the Brookings Institute.