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.
Background on regulatory quality, see "Archive" tab. To be regularly informed or share your news, join the Smart Regulation Group on LinkedIn: 1,300 members, or register as follower.

28 March 2011

EU Consumer rights: a test for BR principles

An updated version of the EU’s Consumer Rights Directive was approved by the European Parliament on 24 March, but MEPs postponed adopting a final position on the new law to buy themselves more time to reach agreement with member states on the most controversial issues (and possibly secure Council approval at first reading). The reform proposal aims to update protection rules, especially for on-line commerce, which are currently spread across four separate directives and pre-date the digital revolution. It is supported by business because it could usher in a EU wide level playing field. Full harmonisation is however difficult as some MS already have stricter rules than the planned common regulations. And it has not been fully established that the new rules would overall reduce administrative burdens. For more, see excellent Euractiv dossier.

Bad regulation as NTB (China)

Throughout most of the articles on this blog, better regulation is mainly sought for its potential boost to national productivity and job potential, via the savings generated on regulatory costs for businesses. We sometimes even come across the notion of "regulatory competition" where different entities vie to become more competitive than their neighbours, by way of particularly efficient rules on opening and running businesses, in order to attract company headquarters or facilities. The reverse side of the same coin is the use of regulation as a barrier to entry for external or foreign investors (non-tariff barriers). A recent example of this is provided by the survey made by the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing that supports the view that "growing Chinese red tape ... prevents them from expanding quickly in China's vast market."
 Road blocks faced by firms in getting business licenses have multiplied to the extent that companies are now more worried about bureaucratic hurdles than by nebulous laws and regulation or corruption, AmCham's annual survey on China's business climate showed.
Meanwhile, red tape is also becoming a hot topic on the other side of the South China sea: an article published today in the China Times, following a murder blamed to administrative sloth, proclaims "Bureaucratic red tape unacceptable" and "unbearable when it causes irreparable damage such as loss of life." In parallel, the new Taipei Mayor recently demanded that city government officials "use plain language when answering appeals from the public. Most importantly, officials should be polite while addressing and solving the problems presented to them", said the mayor.

23 March 2011

Link between deregulation and growth questioned

The presentation of the UK budget has been an opportunity for actors and observers to discuss the link between reducing red tape and job creation. The UK government had been announcing that its main objective was to use the budget to boost economic growth, (see "Plan for Growth") and various measures are presented or viewed as reductions of administrative burdens, for instance:
- exempting very small firms (with fewer than 10 employees) from all new red tape for three years while the stock of regulationis being reviewed;
- a moratorium on "new domestic regulation" from April.
Opponents stress that most of the cuts affect social legislation (examples training, or maternity leave rights), thereby reducing guarantees to employees. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has published a pamphlet entitled "The Red Tape Delusion". Some observers point out that "cutting red tape isn't a strategy for growth" (Left Foot Forward). A discussion where we would need a few economic demonstrations rather than catchy phrases or unsubstantiated promises.

4th IRRC sees big picture

I was unfortunately not able to attend, but have had indications that the conference was a great success. All the contributions are now posted on the Bertelsmann IRRC page. The high number and diversity of papers presented at this event make it one of the most important moment in the regulatory reform year.
For the fourth edition, the organisers tried to cater for a perceived "hunger for renewal within the community", and go beyond the technocratic approach focusing more on instruments and techniques than on the political and societal context. They called for fresh ideas and a better view of the big picture, hence the motto of the conference "looking at the whole thing - the whole elephant" - a variant of the forest and the trees.
I examined the presentations and was pleased to find updates from all the major national projects underway (i.a. NL, UK, Canada) and some new approaches such as Kenya's (P. Chabeda on green growth). The most up-to-date technical expertise was reviewed (e.g. regulatory budgets, modelling for RIA). G. Pons summarized the recent development of smart regulation. Many thanks to Bertelsmann Stiftung and their partners (i.a. OECD, the World Bank Group, the Government of the Republic of Korea.)

17 March 2011

Blog takes new name after one year of operation

Regular visitors may have noticed that this blog has adopted the more popular name "Smart Regulation" instead of "Regulatory Quality," though this does not represent a shift in content, but a response to the show of interest by regulators worldwide who have subscribed to the LinkedIn group of that name, now assembling 200 experts. European SR, including related topics such as EU 2020 and Internal Market will continue to be prominent, but national news (most often under the banner of 'better regulation') will of course continue.
There are about 100 visits per week. About 50 visitors have become "followers", 14 of which appear listed in the column to the right. Perhaps others have been dissuaded by the title "BR experts" ! Over the period end January - mid-March, 146 items have been posted, in 32 "categories."  Some items (not numerous enough) were suggested or drafted by other experts: thank you Lorenzo, Manos and Denis in particular. In parallel, I have made the URL of the blog easier to memorise, at least for my friends: http://www.montin.com/ and the content of the resource site (regplus.eu) will progressively be more closely integrated into the blog and disappear as a separate site. For the continued blog I will make one wish: that more readers deposit "comments" or send in ideas for articles. I hope this blog is useful, I take quite some pleasure maintaining it !

EU and ASEAN join forces on regional economic integration

At the close of a seminar on regional economic integration earlier this month, a joint communiqué from EU and ASEAN announced the official launch of revamped cooperation between the two organisations, in the ASEAN-EU Economic Integration Support Program (AEISP). This new instrument succeeds the Programme for Regional Integration Support (APRIS Phases I and II) and aims in particular to assist the establishment of the ASEAN single market and production base by 2015. APRIS Phase I and Phase II have been operating for the last eight years with EU grant support of €10 million. The new programme has expanded targets and can draw from a larger budget of $20.7 million.
These goals are to be sought via actions similar to those undertaken by the EU to build its Internal Market, which relies to a large extent on Better Regulation principles and results, including the simplification of customs procedures across borders, harmonization of administrative documents, standardization of technical requirements and the transition from governmental pre- approval system to a post-market surveillance.
The programme also requires improving dispute settlement mechanisms.

Council wants to perfect Internal Market for Services

At its 10 March meeting, the European Coucil (Competitiveness) adopted interesting conclusions "on a better functioning Single Market for services – mutual evaluation process of the Services Directive." This endorsement of recent Commission work on monitoring of the implementation of the Services Directive invites the Member States to cooperate with each other and the Commission in order to move towards a more integrated Single Market for Services. The Council is acting on the assumption that the relaunch of the Single Market (and specially its services dimension) can increase competitiveness and create smart and sustainable growth and jobs. For background, see Commission site on Mutual Evaluation.

2020 strategy under scrutiny in EESC

Yesterday (16 March) at the plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso stressed the importance of the EESC's active involvement in the European Semester, a new instrument designed to ensure a preventive supervision of economic and budgetary policies of Member States. The Commission's Annual Growth Survey, which kicked off the first semester, provided advice on the direction for national economic and fiscal policies to follow. In its new opinion on the survey, the EESC lambasted the Commission for missing the opportunity to target smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, focusing instead on fiscal consolidation and labour market and pension system reforms. "The Commission is plain wrong while presenting drastic fiscal consolidation as the prerequisite for growth. Emphasis should be put on growth drivers as only they can enable this fiscal consolidation", said Michael Smyth (Great Britain, Various Interest's Group), rapporteur of the opinion. On the  other hand, EESC Members welcomed Mr Barroso's emphasis on social dialogue and civil society's engagement as a way to reduce the risk of the Europe 2020 Strategy's legitimacy deficit and called for less red tape for innovators and inventors (for more, see press release)

10 March 2011

Announcement: June RIA course

Jacobs and Associates informs us that registration is now open for the 5-Day Applied Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) Training Course scheduled on 6-10 June in Rome, Italy, on the campus of LUISS University. The deadline for registration for the June course is May 2nd. This is the world’s most popular RIA course, and we hope to see you there. Over 60 countries have now adopted RIA around the world as governments invest more in controlling regulatory costs and finding more effective ways to regulate the business sector.  See more information and register for any of our training courses at http://www.regulatoryreform.com/ria-training.html

Users at the centre of public service modernisation (France)

On 9 March (yesterday) the French Governement took stock of progress made in reviewing public policies (Revue Générale des Politiques Publiques RGPP). In its 5th meeing since the project was launched three years ago, the Council for the modernisation of public policies (a body chaired by President Sarkozy himself) reviewed projects under way and vetted another batch of 50 measures aiming at streamlining administrative action, improving public services and enhancing efficiency, bringing the total to 400 measures. Cutting red tape is among the top priorities, to make life easier for citizens and companies, while reducing public spending.
The extension of on-line administrative services is one of the main instruments for delivering the improvements: currently two-thirds of most common procedures (such as registering on polling lists) can be handled from home, a figure that should reach 80% by the end of the year. The most impressive facility is the online submission of the income tax return which is used by 10 million tax-payers. Also 40% of farmers already use the internet to apply for grants.
The policy also highlights the search for "quality of service", including reducing processing time for authorizations or subsidies. Quality will continue to be monitored on a yearly basis by way of a published "barometer" and one-stop-shops will continue to merge ranges of services for specific publics (amalgamation of tax, and employment, offices for instance). Wide-scale re-organisation of central government presence on the ground is also being pursued in the same spirit. A summary in 20 pages gives a view of the scope and variety of the reform.

New BR textbook: OECD brochure

Yesterday I visited OECD and was given a copy of the new brochure on "Regulatory Policy: Towards a New Agenda" which was just being uploaded on the OECD website. It contains the key messages from the 28-29 October 2010 conference, a major event already reported here, which we remember the as a high moment in the 2010 BR calendar, for the updating of fundamental working principles and concepts that it brought about.
In an attractive format (congratulations Jennifer Stein), the brochure leads us step by step from the basics (why BR?, questions facing policy makers, what do citizens want?, what do businesses want?..) to the most current trends: what must we do to move to Smart Regulation? what does this new concept mean?, how do we encompass the life-cycle of the regulation? what is the new rôle of evaluation? how can the new concerns for greener regulation be taken on board?
Illustrated with many quotes from the speakers, with elegant pictures and layout, this is a document that will stand apart in our profesional documentation and deserve pointed srutiny and reflection. Perhaps its main merit will have been to successfully answer the challenge (see page 31) of "building a common languague to obtain society's engagement in regulation internationally."

08 March 2011

Quake sets off new red tape effort (NZ)

The New Zealand Government today moved to cut red-tape to allow homes to be rebuilt more quickly, in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake.
Nine regulations had been changed to help speed up the recovery process, including three changes to the Resource Management legislation. A new fast-track procedure would speed up the resource consent process for land remediation work by removing the need for public notifications, hearings and appeals.
The only problem, from a Better Regulation point of view, is that once more regulatory work is inspired by current events, not sound permanently enforced principles.

Local authorities seek reduction of national red tape (UK and FR)

The UK government has just launched a new offensive to reduce specifically the numerous "statutory duties imposed on councils by primary legislation"
In an announcement yesterday, decentralisation minister Greg Clark, in a review of councils' red tape, is consulting local authorities whether to scrap many of the 1294 such information obligations. For more see LocalGov article.

The same approach has been in place in France for some time. The principle that the transfer of competencies must be accompanied by corresponding tax resources was raised to constitutional status in the 1980s but it remains a very technical matter, and is intensely discussed whenever an additional responsibility is delegated. In 2004, a major reform of local government listed all the "delegated competencies" and defined principles for calculating the corresponding "financial compensation". The scrutiny of possible new burdens is required for every new item of primary legislation. But in October 2010, the Senate, a traditional advocate of local authorities, expressed new concern and tabled legislation to make compensation of new regulatory burdens obligatory.

Brussels official forms to be redrawn

The Brussels city council announced last week that it has launched an operation to simplify some 50 official forms, in order to boost the efficiency of the regional administration. A public consultation is being organised to test the idea and the new forms will be available in May. Up to now, official forms had been targeted by the Federal Government (many resources available online from the Simplification Agency) and also by the Walloon and Flemish regions. Walloonia organised an international conference on the topic in 2009.
Another innovation from Brussels: last week, the well-known minister in charge of simplification, Vincent Van Quickenborne organised the first ministerial "twunch" as a new form of consultation (in this case on how public administrations could use data available on the social media.)