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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31 July 2013

A deserved break for your blogger

From your blog editor, Charles-Henri Montin, many thanks to readers and contributors for their support.
All through August, only exceptional news will be reported.
Wishing you a restful holiday period, I leave you to reflect on future resolutions for smart regulation, on the invitation of our friend Daniel Tsygankov from Moscow.

Decentralised, contractual policies for growth (UK)

A new "initial guidance document" (more will be published in September) dated 25 July  further clarifies the UK Government's growth policy, and how it relies on Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), contractual agreements between local authorities and business, to deliver results. The policy had first been defined in the 'Government's Response to the Heseltine Review'. The core proposition of Lord Heseltine's report is a decentralised approach that is intended to "break Whitehall's monopoly on resources and decision making," to empower Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to drive forward growth in their local areas. Alongside this, the report makes a number of recommendations that strengthen the underpinnings of long-term growth, from changes to the way in which Whitehall supports growth, to strengthening partnerships between government and business, and business and education. This guidance fleshes out how this process is to be enacted: "Through Growth Deals, LEPs can seek freedoms, flexibilities and influence over resources from government, and a share of the Local Growth Fund to achieve their identified growth priorities. In return, the government expects LEPs to demonstrate that they are committed to the growth agenda, including by developing ambitious, multi-year strategic economic plans. We also expect the local authority members of LEPs to prioritise economic development and work collaboratively across the LEP area."

"Nudging in Europe" (Workshop 12-13 December)

Top expert Alberto Alemanno is organising (with A.L. Sibony) a workshop on how EU regulators can use recent insights of behavioural sciences to design smarter regulation. The event will take place in Liège on 12-13 December, and Alberto is calling for contributions (deadline 1 October).
The announcement contains the promise of fruitful exchanges, and is well worth reading, even if you cannot attend. Here is an extract:
"A growing body of evidence suggests that insights from the behavioural sciences - from psychology and behavioural economics to neurosciences - can help design public policies that work better, cost less, and help people to achieve their goals. By showing that individuals deviate in predictable ways from neoclassical assumptions of rationality, behavioural sciences may help policy makers and administrative agencies to design policies that accommodate how people really behave, not how they are assumed to behave.
Under both UK Prime Minister Cameron and US President Obama, policy makers have recently been encouraged to draw on behavioural and social sciences insights in the design or implementation of new regulations." (for the rest, go to Alberto's blog).

29 July 2013

Circulaire sur les circulaires

A la suite de la 3ème réunion du  comité interministériel pour la modernisation de l’action publique (les premières ont eu lieu à la fin 2012 et au printemps 2013), le gouvernement a dévoilé un plan contenant quelque 200 mesures de simplification administrative et de modernisation de l’État qui doivent permettre de réduire de 3 milliards d’euros en 2014 le déficit de l’État.  Pour un résumé, voir article de Libération.
En parallèle, de nouvelles instructions ont été publiées sur l'usage de cet important instrument de communication gouvernementale que sont les circulaires administratives. En effet, une circulaire du 17 juillet 2013 relative à la simplification administrative et au protocole des relations avec les services déconcentrés dispose que désormais, l'usage de la formule de la circulaire sera réservé à la diffusion d'instructions pour la mise en œuvre d'une politique publique. Les ministres signeront personnellement ces circulaires, adressées aux préfets (copie aux services concernés), qui se présenteront formellement sous l'intitulé « Instructions du Gouvernement ». Le volume de chacune de ces instructions ne devra pas excéder cinq pages. [...] Les outils intranet du ministère sont l'instrument adéquat pour la diffusion des recommandations, éclaircissements et précisions nécessaires à l'activité des préfets et des services déconcentrés. [...] C'est par cette voie que seront désormais diffusées les précisions techniques ou méthodologiques nécessaires à la mise en œuvre d'un texte ou d'une politique. Il est en outre très opportun de recourir à des modes de relations fondés sur l'interactivité, par exemple sous forme de « questions-réponses » ou de forums d'échanges, ou encore de plates-formes collaboratives réunissant experts des administrations centrales et des services déconcentrés. [...] Le public, et en particulier les acteurs économiques, exprime le besoin d'une information facile d'accès sur les nouveaux textes présentant un impact particulier. Chaque ministère doit veiller à proposer sur son site internet un service d'informations actualisées et indexées pour les moteurs de recherche. [...]

New Swiss RIA manual and checklist

Our Swiss colleagues (in SECO) draw our attention to a new RIA manual they have published in French and German. The practice of analyzing the impact of regulation in the Confederation dates back to the entry into force of the Federal Council regulation of 15 September 1999 on accounting for the economic impact of federal legislation projects. Since then, all proposed bills of the Federal Council to Parliament must contain a chapter on the economic consequences. The analysis is carried out by officials of the draft legislation in the appropriate agency. A first analysis of the impact of regulation should take place as soon as possible, so that its results can be integrated prior to the project consultation. SECO offices ensures the proper functioning of the scheme.
By decision of the Federal Council of 18 January 2006 (see Legal basis), the scope of the AIR was extended beyond the primary legislation to include directives, circulars and instructions concerning the administration over 10,000 companies will also be subject to AIR. The Federal Council also decided to include in its annual targets up to ten draft legislation that will thoroughly examined with RIA conducted jointly by the appropriate agency and SECO. These in-depth analyzes are to be drafted before the consultation of stakeholders. If need be, the RIA should be adapted to any changes in the project decided as a result of the consultation.

28 July 2013

More say for the public in administrative decisions (France)

In France, making it easier for the public to deal with red tape is supported in law by a key piece of legislation, dated 12 April 2000, "on the rights of citizens in their relations with the administration" which defines a series of actionable rights.
Now the Governemnent is planning to build on 12 years of successful implementation to introduce a number of additional facilities, and filed a bill (draft legislation) in June, which was voted by the upper chamber (Sénat) on 19 July. Here are some of the planned improvements:
1. "lex silencio:" i.e. when the administration does not respond before the end of a two-month period from completion of the application (including supporting documentation), it is presumed that the application is granted; this is a general principle already in force for some procedures, but which it can be quite difficult to apply: the new clauses introduce a number of clarifications to make it workable in a greater array of permits/applications;
2. the bill offers to allow the government to issue (subject to ratification by Parliament) primary legislation on two important issues:
- within 12 months, defining the cases and conditions in which members of the public can "seize" administrative services (file an application, request a service, seek information, etc.) in electronic format, and receive an actionable answer in the same form;
- administrative code: the bill contains a clause whereby Parliament devolves to the government the preparation and adoption witin 24 months of a "code of relations between the administration and the public." This code will consolidate existing general provisions concerning administrative non-contentious procedures, which will be reviewed and simplified where possible. It contains several new elements, in particular a clause calling for more participation of "the public" (previous concept: "citizens") in the preparation of administrative decisions.
All-in-all, this is a very interesting document for Better Regulation experts, showing how a well designed legal framework can make life easier for citizens, while preserving legal security for administrative services.

New "Accountability for Regulator Impact scheme" (UK)

On 24 July, the UK government announced a new scheme to give businesses a stronger voice in influencing how regulators change the way they work, chiefly by improving the RIA process.
Under the new Accountability for Regulator Impact scheme non-economic regulators that are planning a significant change in policy or practice – for example, by updating guidance or inspection regimes - will assess and quantify the impact of that change on business. 
They will then share and discuss these assessments with trade associations and other business representatives before carrying out the proposed changes.
The measure is part of the government's drive to make sure the enforcement of regulation places minimum burdens on industry while delivering essential protections and creating a level playing field on which companies can compete fairly. 
This new initiative is part of the UK government's programme to make the enforcement of regulation less burdensome, along with the a 'growth duty' – a proposed statutory duty for regulators to consider the impact of their activities on growth - and a revised Regulators' Compliance Code.

17 July 2013

Ambitious public administration reform in Spain

(Photo Min. Presidencia, Spain)
On July 15th, supporting the publication of an official report of the Commission on Public Administration Reform (CORA), the Spanish government organised with OECD a seminar on International Good Practices for Public Administration Reform. Six OECD member countries had sent representatives to discuss the most up-to-date trends in public service modernization with their Spanish counterparts. The seminar was opened, in presence of the press, by the Deputy Prime Minister (Ms Saenz de Santamaria) and Mr. A. Gurria, SG of OECD, gabe a keynote speech.
In Spain, most commentators noted the promise that the extensive reforms were meant to save €37.7 bn by removing duplications between levels of government, other institutional changes such as the suppression of advisory bodies, and reducing burdens for business.
As summarized by a "confidential" online bulletin", Ms Saenz said the reform sought both Good Governance and Better Regulation.
One critical commentator noted that the report proposed to claw back powers that had been devolved to the autonomous communities, changes that would require extensive legal reforms.
Background: CORA is an inter-ministerial commission established in October 2012, with strong political support (the Ministry of the Presidency - PMO, backed up by the Ministry of Finance and Public Administration.) The reform benefitted from inputs from a Consultative Body ("Consejo Asesor") consisting of representatives from public sector unions, autonomous communities and municipalities, public defenders offices, prominent academics, business associations (e.g. chambers of commerce), CSOs, etc.
The report seeks solutions to the current economic woes of the country, and proposes several structural reforms centred on increasing efficiency (through spending cuts) while improving performance. The Commission worked on four main areas of reform:
  • Eliminating regulatory and institutional duplication across levels of government, namely between the central/federal government and regional Autonomous Communities
  • Rationalization: the elimination or consolidation of state enterprises
  • Implementation of shared services models, facilitated by ICT platforms, to take greater advantage of economies of scale in purchasing
  • Administrative simplification: reducing administrative burdens for citizens and business.
A new Implementation Unit with high level membership will monitor the package and keep it on schedule.
The rich material will hopefully soon be available. In the meantime, here is your blogger's contribution to the event, a presentation on the French approach to simplification.

12 July 2013

Iceland streamlines business regulation

Just translated into English, and pointed out to us by Icelandic BR expert Pall Thorhallsson, the new government's action plan to improve the regulatory environment of business, according to the coalition agreement and decisions by the Cabinet meeting of 23 May. The PM's office will prepare a report by end 2013 on the items of legislation most onerous for business and open a web page to consult the public on simplifications of business regulation. For more, see government website.

Independent review of Doing Business index

E. Schizas points us to a very interesting document, the report of the Independent Panel Review of the Doing Businessranking. This review comes at a time when this publication is facing renewed criticism, already reported here (30 May)To try to give an idea that this is well worth checking, here are some of the "concerns" highlighted by the Panel (extracts):
"The Doing Business report has the potential to be misinterpreted"
"The report relies on a narrow information source. "
"The report only measures regulations applicable to categories of business that can be captured through its methodology."
"The report’s data-collection methodology can be improved."
"The report does not provide a tool to enable countries to respond appropriately to low overall ranking."

04 July 2013

Regulatory quality supports Rule of Law (Tajikistan)

The « Rule of Law in Central Asia » Initiative of the European Union aims at promoting reform and good governance in judicial systems in the five Central Asian countries. Along the lines agreed at the Third Conference of Ministers of Justice of European Union Member States and Central Asian countries in Brussels in December 2012, the main activities are capacity building of the public administrations, parliaments and judiciary. Since their independence, the states of Central Asia have initiated various reforms to strengthen the rule of law which are crucial for the effective protection of human rights, for socio-economic development, as well as for the further development of trade and investment links with Europe. Better Regulation can bring a significant contribution to strengthening democratic institutions and economic performance.
On July 2-3, 2013, your blogger was invited to contribute to a training workshop Legislative drafting techniques in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. At this workshop, two branches of new public governance were the focus of the exchanges between the national and foreign experts: better legislative drafting, for a clearer and more effective use of regulation by public authorities, and performance based budgeting, for a more transparent and efficient use of public finances. Participants were able to reflect on how the new legal and budget techniques can deliver on the Rule of Law objectives. All the presentations will be published online, but in the meantime, here are some rare resources: a presentation on legistics, and an update on recent trends in RIA in France (in Russian).

Russian RIA takes step forward

1 July 2013 was a milestone for Russian RIA, which moved to the new level of expertise. Firstly, RIA will henceforth be prepared by regulators simultaneously with the development of new bills. The Russian Ministry of Economy will evaluate their quality. Secondly, draft regulations, impact assessments and public consultations summaries will be available on a single portal for legal acts. Thirdly, the scope of RIA has been extended to new policy areas (customs and tax regulations) and subnational regulations (the regional level, from 1 January 2014).
To share best practice between experts from the RF but also other CIS countries, a Facebook group named “Regulatory Impact Assessment in Russia” was launched in June 2012 to share news, event announcements, links to the latest research (including international), case studies and methodological approaches. By 30 June, 2013 the group, which brings together experts in evaluation of programs and policies, regulatory impact assessment experts from the federal and regional government agencies, representatives of business associations, and business owners, had already attracted more than 320 members, and the group continues to grow. In order to join this group you need to have a profile on Facebook, and just leave a request to moderators at https://www.facebook.com/groups/OPBRU/ (news from our Moscow correspondents.)

Mexico publishes a new regulatory reform agenda

The Mexican Regulatory Reform Agency (COFEMER) has just informed this network of the content of the new policy of the recently appointed federal government by providing a translation into English of a key document “National Agenda for Regulatory Improvement”. The contents have been public for some time in Spanish on COFEMER’s site. They had also been presented by the DG of the agency at the 31st conference of Mexican States in April 2013. In summary, the new agenda calls for a strengthening of the policy by inter alia “promoting the creation of a public authority for the implementation of regulatory reform” at sub-national level, creating a joint forum with business, conducting periodic assessments of regulatory reform policies. In total, 23 reform options are outlined for implementation in coming months. Most follow closely OECD the advice contained in the 2012 Recommendation on regulatory policy and governance and emphasizes issues linked to sub-national regulatory authorities, with solutions which will be useful in other countries.