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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29 January 2013

WTO: "cutting red tape" could save $1tn

According to an item from The Guardian (UK) widely reported by other media, the WTO chief says that "cutting red tape could boost global economy by $1tn" if Doha talks can remove barriers by end of 2013. By red tape, P. Lamy is referring to technical barriers to trade, beyond information obligations on business, but this is the highest figure ever given for a regulatory cost exercise. He predicts that by the end of this year, "What will happen is that a number of bits of the (Doha) agenda will be concluded selectively, one by one, starting with trade facilitation. Removing barriers to trade will deliver half to two thirds of the benefits of the round. World trade is worth $22tn and the cost of moving trade is $2tn. Cutting red tape in half could stimulate the world economy by $1tn." For those interested in the economic impact of Smart Regulation.

4th annual Red Tape Awareness week (Canada)

Among sub-national governments giving priority to supporting business, British Columbia (BC) has a long-standing excellent performance, as illustrated recently by two events:
  • the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) organises every year a Red Tape Awareness week (semaine de sensibilisation à la paperasserie), which took place this year from 21 to 25 January 2013. The CFIB webpage lists a few other successful initiatives, including international comparisons and "Real Examples of Ridiculous Government Rules."
  • as reported on 24 January by the Vancouver Sun, BC has the highest ranking in Canada for cutting red tape. Authorities have a legal requirement to publish annual reports about regulatory reform. Official figures show "a reduction of regulatory requirements by more than 42 per cent since 2001 - that's more than 155,000 off the books. We've also committed to a net-zero increase in regulatory requirements through to 2015". See also, in that same article, the New West Partnership commercial vehicle website launched in June 2012 by three provinces (BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan), offering a single website for the trucking industry to access information on permits, routes and other commercial vehicle information.

France: alléger les coûts réglementaires sur les collectivités

Sous le titre "Normes: nouveau plan pour juguler l'inflation," la Gazette des Communes analyse le plan présenté au gouvernement français pour maîtriser la prolifération des textes normatifs qui imposent des charges aux collectivités territoriales. Alain Lambert et Jean-Claude Boulard, ont présenté, le 17 janvier, leur programme (incluant des objectifs quantifiés et un calendrier) et la méthode pour s'attaquer aux 400 000 normes qui étouffent les collectivités territoriales. Le président de la Commission consultative d'évaluation des normes, président (DVD) du conseil général de l'Orne et le maire (PS) du Mans, s'étaient vus confier le 19 décembre 2012 cette mission, désormais inscrite dans le cadre de la modernisation de l'action publique (MAP). Ainsi, une liste de normes appelées à être abrogées devrait être proposée le 15 mars 2013.
Parallèlement, une proposition de loi portant création d'une Haute autorité chargée du contrôle et de la régulation des normes applicables aux collectivités locales, portée par Jacqueline Gourault et M. Jean-Pierre Sueur et déposée au Sénat le 12 novembre 2012 est, quant à elle, discutée à partir du 28 janvier 2013.

27 January 2013

Spain addresses fragmentation of its internal market

On Friday the Spanish Council of Minister approved a report on draft legislation set to improve the unity of the internal (national) market, for an estimated gain of 0.15% of GDP (€1,500m) per year for 10 years.
The scheme calls for a single license to allow a firm to trade in all autonomous communities (regions) throughout the country, instead of up to 17 procedures. A new dedicated body will bring together central and regional governments to monitor implementation, which will also use a common electronic database to support control and supervision functions. Conflict resolution procedures will be simplified, under the future National Commission for markets and competition. The report offers some detail on each of these points. Our correspondent (Prof. Gamero, Seville) estimates that the new legislation, which was negotiated with the autonomous communties, will be passed by Parliament before the summer, once the RIA has been drafted and endorsed by Governement.

UK Gvt streamlines inspections on food outlets

Just published, a very good summary on the official Government site on how to improve enforcement of legislation by introducing risk-based inspections and publishing better guidance to manufacturers on how to comply. In this Better Regulation approach, more efficient enforcement of regulation serves higher standards of protection by way of less bureaucracy.
"The Government's Focus on Enforcement campaign asked small food manufacturers with up to fifty employees to report on their experiences of working with national regulators and local authorities.
Acting on the feedback received, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) will:
  • Allow businesses with a good record of compliance fewer inspections
  • Deliver enhanced training for enforcement officers, helping them understand the law and the businesses they are regulating – including an innovative e-learning package that will also benefit business
  • Work with local authorities to improve consistency in the quality of enforcement, creating a level playing field for businesses and a dependable level of protection for consumers
  • Explore alternate appeals mechanisms in cases of disagreement between the business and the enforcing officer
  • Ensure guidance for the food industry on food safety management is clear and concise. FSA will continue to review the guidance on control of cross-contamination of E.coli O157, and engage one of the leading food science laboratories and research centres in the UK to test independently the alternative controls to cross-contamination proposed by stakeholders. This will ensure any unnecessary burdens on businesses can be removed while strengthening the effectiveness of public health protection.
  • Working with industry stakeholders, the FSA will assess what guidance is currently available, whether this is accessible and used by industry, and what the FSA can do to help small manufacturers."

25 January 2013

SR on bilateral Franco-German cooperation agenda

Earlier this week, the celebrations of the 50 years of the Elysée Treaty on franco-german friendship was the opportunity to draw up a list of renewed cooperation in the future. The final declaration (in French and German), includes a short paragraph on Smart Regulation:
"25. Smart regulation and an effective reduction of unnecessary administrative costs contribute to the improvement of growth and competitiveness, in particular of SMEs. France and Germany will exchange on approaches and experiences and intensify the franco-german cooperation, with special emphasis on initiatives at the European level."

Goldplating high on the agenda in IRRC Berlin 31 Jan

As previously reported, The Swedish Better Regulation Council (Regelrådet) and The Board of Swedish Industry and Commerce for Better Regulation (NNR) have published a joint report with recommendations for how to improve implementation of EU legislation: 'Clarifying Gold-Plating – Better Implementation of EU Legislation'. The joint report has not only broken new ground by the coming together of two organisations of different starting points, expertise and approaches it has also been very well received by the Government Offices of Sweden. The government has expressed its appreciation in a letter to the organisations along with feedback on the report, stating that the report and its recommendations will serve as an excellent starting point to the undertaking of evolving better regulation, especially when negotiating and implementing EU legislation. Furthermore the recommendations will be utilised in the Swedish Government´s work to improve support on impact assessments to regulators. The Swedish Government is considering the suggestions made. However, in order to achieve change, the question of over- implementation of EU-legislation, so- called gold-plating, needs to be lifted to an EU- Institutional level, as well as being prioritised by all member states in a joint effort. There are essential tools available, which can be used on both national and EU level, for identifying the impact of EU-legislation on business and avoiding unnecessary burden on business. These are, for example, impact assessments and consultation with stakeholders. By using these tools and forming joint strategies for mitigating negative effects of gold-plating on business, a fractured single market can be avoided. In order to achieve results the topic needs to be discussed further. Join Regelrådet and NNR, as well as, representatives from the EU Commission and other experts in a workshop on "Clarifying Gold-Plating: Mitigating Barriers To Trade in the European Single Market", Friday 1st February 2013 at the IRRC conference in Berlin (announcement from Regelradet.)

19 January 2013

BBC adopts its own "simplicity" campain

As reported by the Guardian, just like any bureaucracy, the BBC is holding a Simplicity Week at at one of its HQs, home to Radio 5 Live, BBC Children's and BBC Sport, culminating in a simplicity "brainstorm" on Friday as the broadcaster seeks to identify "60 fixes" in the next six months. Staff have also been invited to make suggestions to a "simplicity hotline" with an as-yet unidentified prize on offer for the best suggestion. An email address is complemented by a more old-fashioned alternative – a suggestion box in the 5 Live kitchen – with business cards left on people's desks to encourage their most creative thinking. What is original but worthwhile is the confirmation that bureaucracy can be entrenched not only in ministries and other public bodies, but also in major corporations public or private.

Victoria (AUS) appoints red tape commissioner

As reported by Property Observer Melbourne yesterday, Australia's first red tape commissioner has beenappointed in Victoria and will start compiling a list of problem areas to target and bring to the state's government's attention.
Already in October, the Federal Government has appointed the first small business commissioner.
Victoria has a target to reduce red tape by 25% – if this experiment proves useful, other states could follow with similar appointments

New figures concerning US regulatory costs

An interesting but highly critical study of the recent evolution of regulatory reform was published on 17 January by Free Enterprise. It quotes a study by the the American Action Forum showing that "$518 billion in new regulatory costs have been dropped on the economy in the last four years, nearly $216 billion in 2012 alone. Three big culprits are EPA, the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, and the health care law, and in 2013, expect more costly rules from each of them." The article also gives the example of mandated menu labeling (includig calorie count) for chain restaurants and "similar retail food establishments," including pizza franchises and grocery stores, that will cost $757 million, with figures taken from the Federal Registry RIA (enough to cut your appetite).

15 January 2013

New directions for administrative simplification (France)

On 10 January, the French government launched a new administrative simplification programme for companies, at a first meeting with the representatives of the business world. Four ministers belonging to the economics branch ushered in the new agenda, which implements the "Competitiveness Pact" adopted in November and confirmed in the Modernisation of Public Action strategy delineated on 18 December.
It is interesting that Parliament will be associated to the policy, with an MP (Mr Thierry Mandon) dedicated to support the definition of the progamme.
The range of the strategy is illustrated by the list of seven priority projects already launched by the Government:
  • the "Tell us once" principle to enable companies to avoid multiple submission of the same information to different administrations;
  • a single social contribution return form ;
  • simplification and acceleration of procedures related to business real estate operations;
  • a single portal of public grants to enterprises;
  • a new effort to limit over-transposition (gold-plating) of Community law into French law;
  • introduction of the SME-test to assess the impact of new legislation on small business and micro-enterprises;
  • reduced barriers to export for SMEs and VSEs.
Participants received a very complete draft consultation methodology which will be published by this blog as soon as it is finalised.
For more information about the meeting, see the official communiqué, and for some comment, an article (Le Moniteur).
A programme of administrative simplification for citizens, comprising 26 measures, was announced in December.

OECD countries support improved governance in MENA region

Next week, OECD and the French government will host in Paris a conference for high ranking officials from the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) on "regulatory quality for inclusive growth and competitiveness." This event is part of the programme defined in late November 2012 at the meeting of the Steering Group of the MENA-OECD Initiative, where policy makers from MENA and OECD reiterated their support for measures to strengthen the business climate and governance in the region (see official communiqué). In November, the Steering Group committed to organise activities aiming inter alia at improving the clarity and efficiency of regulations and creating a public administration that is conducive to quality public services and economic growth. With this OECD-MENA Initiative on Governance and Investment for Development, the Organisation is also contributing to give substance to commitments under the Deauville Partnership.
Next week's Paris meeting will aim to define the operational plan of future activities to support regulatory reform in the region.
For regular updates, subscribe to OECD-MENA flux.

11 January 2013

New evaluation methodology in France

The French Prime Minister has just published an interesting circulaire (standing instruction) dated 7 January on the evaluation of public policies and simplification plans. Following the first meeting of the interdepartmental committeeon modernization of public policy, which took place on 18 December, the PM asked each minister to carry out, by the end of the year 2013, an evaluation of public policies under his responsibility, and to draw up a ministerial program for modernization and simplification. An appendix to the circulaire gives a step-by-step methodological guide for the evaluation of "partnership public policies."
The new modernisation strategy, which succeeds the General review of public policies in force between 2007 and 2010, continues to stress the internal scrutiny of public policies and the search for administrative efficiency with fiscal constraints as starting points for reform. The stated goal of the exercise is to draw up a "shared vision of policies" based on an objective evaluation of inter alia their relevance, efficiency and sustainability. There is no stated overall economic objective (such as competitiveness or jobs for instance). The methodology examines in detail how the ministries must steer the project and mentions consulting stakeholders, among which there are the locally elected officials, the public social protection bodies and the beneficiaries (including business). There is no provision for a specific business advisory structure.
Meanwhile, the pressure from the trade unions does not show any sign of letting up. They have all expressed the fear that the new policy serves to identify new budget savings, and ultimately to obey the same logic as the RGPP, even if the key measure of the latter, the non-replacement of the half positions vacated by retirement, has been abandoned. One trade union even condemns "a new process that maintains the objectives of the RGPP cuts in jobs, services and public functions."

09 January 2013

New Business Secretary appointed (UK)

Today the UK Government announced the appointment of Lord Younger as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. He will be in particular in charge of steering the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill through its final stages in the House of Lords (which meets today). V. Cable remains the better known Business Secretary. From the new "gov.uk" release: "The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’ (PDF 1.7MB), published at Budget 2011:
  • To create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • To make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • To encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
  • To create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe.
Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel."

"Regulatory smorgasbord": US Unified Agenda

Observers in the US are not kind in their welcome to the late publication (21 December) of the semiannual regulatory plan of regulatory and deregulatory actions called "Unified Agenda". For a full description of the regulatory planning process, see the relevant OIRA pagesThe American Action Forum examines the "regulatory smorgasbord" of over 2300 actions and estimates that it will generate high regulatory costs for the economy (possibly $123.2 billion in costs and 13.6 million hours in  paperwork burden).

1st International Conf. on Legislative Drafting

The US Federal Bar Association announces that it is convening the First International Conference on Legislative Drafting and Law Reform, to be held in Washington on 8-9 March 2013.
Planned topics for this international conference include:
  • Legislative Drafting and Drafting International Treaties
  • Comparative Legislative Drafting: the Experiences in the United Kingdom and the Middle East
  • Foreign Policy Making, Law Making, and Legislative Drafting: The Interface
  • Legislative Drafting and Judicial Approaches to Interpretation
  • Legislative Drafting: Transferring Treaties to National Legislation
  • New Challenges in Legislative Drafting
  • Legislative Drafting and Law Reform
  • Legislative Drafting and the Criminal Justice System
  • Use of Definitions in Legislative Drafting
  • Teaching Legislative Drafting: New Approaches
  • Legislative Drafting: Viewpoints of the Judge
  • Basic Principles of Legislative Drafting
This blog has in a previous post shown how good legislative drafting can contribute to smart regulation. For examples, see the "legistics" category of this blog(information from Dr Tonye Clinton Yaya, see also the website of the International Journal of Legislative Drafting and Law Reform).

Irish EU presidency programme

Today 9 January the Irish government published its programme for its six month in the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union which started on 1 January, declaring its intention of focusing on stability, jobs and growth.
Priorities were chosen on the basis of the current agenda of EU legislation and initiatives. They include, among other things:
  • lasting stability, beginning with the renewal of economic governance in Europe
  • putting a spotlight on youth unemployment
  • legislation to promote the digital economy and measures aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises
  • a focus on the potential of natural resources, on land as well as at sea
  • the promotion of trade agreements and the pursuit of the enlargement agenda.
At this stage, there are no announcements about the future of smart regulation as a tool to contribute to these goals, but do watch this space for developments.