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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27 July 2011

Summer break for the blog

After drafting 90 posts on a variety of topics related to smart regulation since 1 January, I am taking a few weeks' leave in the South of France. Thank you to all those who have sent in support messages, or contributions, or just tips leading to a post. The Smart Regulation group on LinkedIn has now reached 400 members from all over the world, and several very interesting discussions were launched on our issues, in a really interactive format.
Best wishes for the Summer,
Charles-Henri Montin

Obama intensifies RR drive launched earlier this year

In a notable display of authority over independent regulatory agencies (such as the Federal Reserve, the Federal Communication Commission and others), President Obama issued an executive order earlier this month informing such agencies that they “should” follow certain executive guidelines in order to make “wise” regulatory decisions.
The executive order directs these agencies to promote presidential goals in their policy making, increase public participation in their decision making, retrospectively analyze existing rules, and release their analyses of these rules online. For more informationa and good comment, see RegBlog post.

Indian efforts to modernise administration thwarted by red tape

Administrative reform is a long-standing concern of the Indian government (see Wikipedia article on the issue ) The main drive is supposed to be provided by the administrative reforms commission was set up in 1966 and re-vamped in 2005. Results, however, have been slow in emerging, as evidenced by a March article in the Tribune: "The Haryana Administrative Reforms Commission (HARC) seems to have delivered little in terms of making suggestions on improving the working of various departments while inviting a lot of flak on its internal operation. "
Difficulties have been apparent for some time, judging by a critical review in March, that concludes that the Haryana Administrative Reforms Commission “as turned into a dumpyard with state government appointing former IAS officers, who do every thing except proposing any reforms.” The Commission is also criticised for feathering its own nest instead of concentrating on making reform proposals.
An article published a few days ago in “Express India” draws attention to the mishaps of this policy . Under the title “Administrative reform stuck in red tape”, it claims that "more than three years after a panel suggested path breaking changes, they are yet to be accepted ." The main changes at the standstill include territorial reorganisation, land law, appointment conditions of district-level officials.Before the HARC was disbanded in January this year, its reports were submitted to a cabinet sub- committee, headed by a minister , which was to go through the recommendations and take appropriate action. The cabinet sub-committee is apparently ready for discussion.

EESC advises on internal market

The opinions of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) are always a source of interesting information and comment as they frequently address BR issues (see this blog's EESC category).
Recently, the EESC has issued two opinions which aim to reduce the number of cross border difficulties experienced by European citizens and businesses. In the opinions, the EESC promotes the importance of a transparent, yet smoothly functioning system to instil confidence in citizens and businesses when dealing with cross border matters.
  • Improving the single market for services: Services are the main driver of the EU economy and according to the Commission this sector accounts for around 70% of EU GDP. In recent years, there has been a marked shift to knowledge based industries. The opinion agrees that greater integration and a better functioning of service markets should enhance EU competitiveness. The EESC is positive about the “points of single contact” system, which facilitates easier access to country specific information in each Member State, but raises concerns about drawing conclusions from the screening too soon, and withouth taking account of the new treaty.
  • Cross border tax problems: the opinion assesses the Commission’s plans to tackle the cross border tax problems that citizens and businesses face. The EESC recommends the establishment of one-stop shop services, whereby citizens can obtain information, pay taxes and receive the necessary documentation to be used across the whole EU. It also calls for a simplification of the administrative procedures applied to cross-border situations, to be undertaken on a bi-lateral and multi-lateral basis across Member States and the establishment of an independent Cross-Border Taxation Observatory with specific resources and functions clearly entrusted to it.

Pace of reform slowed by bureaucracy (Viet Nam)

This blog has reported on progress made by the Vietnamese administrative simplification programme (Project 30). Since the beginning of the year, practical results have been placed on hold, pending the definition of new policy (July conference of the Party Central Committee). An article by VOV news quotes the minister in charge, Mr Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Minister of the Government Office: "Many state organizations and ministries are still dragging their feet in the reform process." The minister said that while the third phase of Project 30 had officially ended recently, many ministries and state agencies had not yet finished their required tasks. On paper the results are impressive: according to the Administrative Reform Inspection Department, up to June 30, more than 3,000 administrative procedures were proposed for simplification, which represents 63 percent of all procedures. Among those, nearly 2,000 have been approved and have brought direct benefits to enterprises and the public.

17 July 2011

Hungary publishes simplification results

On Friday 15, the minister of public administration and justice, in a press interview (AmCham), released details about how the government is proceeding to cut red tape. Recent measures rely mainly on restructuring administrative services and the introduction of one-stop-shops. The minister also hopes to bring about a culture change among officials: "In the second half of this year a new public servant career model will be introduced. The main concept is that by making the performance of public servants measurable, a new more dynamic work ethic will be introduced to public administration. Also this year, a new code of ethics will be created, which will regulate the behavior and attitude of public servants beyond the law." Business will also be eased by the removal of some 30% of all mandatory permits and amalgamated licenses to speed up procedures, in a bid to boost national competitiveness. The article gives interesting examples.

05 July 2011

Sunstein defines a "smart approach" to regulatory reform (US)

This blog has reported on the criticism recently facing the Obama administration’s red tape reduction programme. Now (1 July) the head of OIRA and main driver of the reform, Cass Sunstein, has responded in a major article in the Washington Post which draws a complete picture of the policy. He for instance claims that the Obama years have not seen more, but less regulation than during the Bush era and that the simplification effort is unprecedented: “the Obama administration has initiated an unprecedented process for streamlining and eliminating regulations, with the goal of reducing unjustified costs. We are taking immediate steps to eliminate millions of hours in annual paperwork burdens for large and small businesses and more than $1billion in annual regulatory costs. Hundreds of reform proposals from 30 agencies, now out for public scrutiny, promise to deliver billions of dollars in additional savings…. Over the Obama administration’s first two years, the net benefits of regulations exceeded $35billion — more than 10 times the net benefits from the first two years of the Bush administration.”

Queensland (Australia) appoints business commissioner

After Victoria and NSW, Queensland makes news with the appointment of a Business Commissioner, an equivalent to the US "regulatory czar," Cass Sunstein who has recently been in the news with a statement on "job-killing" regulations. Mr Sunstein has been labeled the "most dangerous man in America" by television and radio commentator Glenn Beck. He has suggested that government recognition of marriage be discontinued (Wikipedia article.)
The Queensland Business Commissioner's job description is quite interesting: he/she will
· Lead the program to cut red tape across government
· Work with business representative organisations;
· Advise government agencies on best practice in regulation and recommend timelines for government's decision making processes; and
. make sure that before new laws are introduced, government departments will require a Regulatory Assessment Statement - showing that "the point of regulation outweighs the imposition of doing it".

01 July 2011

BR in EU, OECD, World Bank: differences & similarities

Better Regulation has been for some time on the agendas of these three major organisations. But do their policies and programmes have the same underlying principles, or does the same vocabulary cover different realities. That is what the author of this blog was asked to explore for a stakeholder event to be held next week. The major lesson from this comparison is that each organisation pursues policies in keeping with its overall mandate, and that the dissemination of the advantages of improved regulatory quality can be sought in a variety of ways:
  • OECD, by drawing out lessons learnt from best practice, after discussion in its international forum, the regulatory policy committee, and making recommendations to members and partners;
  • EU, by applying the principles to its own regulatory production, and getting its member states to follow suit, to improve the image of EU law and contribute to competitiveness;
  • WBG, by assisting mainly developing and transition countries in tackling the practical challenges, regulatory and others, to improve the business environment and investment climate.
The text of the Powerpoint presentation is on line at http://regplus.eu/documents/fee.pps

Consumer rights improved in EU law after much discussion

Last week the European Parliament adopted, after much discussion (see previous post), the text of a new directive on consumer rights which had been under discussion since 2008 (on the basis of Commission proposal (2008)614)). The text still needs to be finallly voted by the European Council (planned for September) and published in the official journal. To take effect, the new rules will need to be transposed into national law before 2013.
The Commission press release lists 10 areas where the rights of consumers have been improved. The changes focus on eliminating hidden charges, increasing price transparency when making online payments to internet merchant accounts. What is special about this directive from a BR point of view? The lengthy discussion has shown how difficult it is to agree on a European-wide set of standards, even when the case is clear that EU law is outdated (in this case it predated the digital revolution). The UK, Austria and other member states have criticised the initial draft as offering guarantees lower than those in force in their respective national legislations.
According to a 27 June Euractiv dossier (the best analysis online of the recent development), "Consumer groups are broadly satisfied with new consumer rights legislation in Europe, but SMEs fear the law will increase administrative burdens on small traders." The reform may lift one of the obstacles to enhanced cross-border online trade (the outdated EU legal framework) though business cite legislative differences between EU countries as their main reason for not selling across borders.