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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19 February 2014

Regelradet publishes 2013 report (Sweden)

The fifth Annual Report from the Swedish Better Regulation Council (Regelrådet) is now available in English on this oversight body's website. Regelrådet is one of the four model independent oversight bodies and has developed a great expertise in the quality control of regulatory impact assessments (RIAs) and the effectiveness of the national administrative burden reduction programmes. This year's report gives analyses the quality of RIAs submitted by government agencies and outlines the main areas for improvement.

Better Regulation can facilitate trade: proceedings of conference

We reported briefly on the conference organised at OECD on 10 February on "Trade and International Regulatory Cooperation."
The OECD informs us that it has uploaded the agenda, the list of participants and all the presentations on a dedicated Trade Committee page.
We warmly recommend visiting these very valuable resources, which show a very promising new workstream for the Regulatory Policy and the Trade Committees of OECD.

18 February 2014

Better regulation makes progress in China

According to China News, the State Council, China's cabinet, scrapped another batch of government administrative approval requirements on 15 February in a bid to boost market-oriented activities in the economy. According to the announcement, 82 administrative approvals in the telecoms and insurance industries have been cut or made easier to obtain, including canceling the approval of telecommunications services fees and canceling the qualified assessment for insurance assessment practitioners. It is the fifth time the cabinet has reduced red tape since the new leadership took office last year. This change of policy was also clear in the December revision of the Administrative Procedure Act, which has been amended to stress citizens' right to sue. New stipulations include instructions that more rights infringement cases are to be accepted by the courts, for instance cases in which administrators have infringed ownership or rights to use natural resources such as forests, pasture, mineral reserves, mountains and water. Courts shall also be required to accept suits concerning infringement of rural land contracts and management rights, illegal fundraising, unlawful collection or requisition of property, or unfairly apportioned fees. Citizens may bring cases against governments which fail to provide appropriate subsistence allowances or social insurance benefits. There is also a call for new regulation to be more evidence-based: Yuan Jie, of the NPC Standing Committee's legislative affairs commission, believes an important principle for amending any law is to solve the most outstanding problems in the litigation process. A law must be easy to apply in the real world, and many field studies were conducted while drafting the amendment, involving court clerks, ordinary citizens and lawyers, said Yuan. The difficulty in obliging courts to even file a case in the first place was the most frequently voiced problem. Therefore the draft amendment adds many new articles in this aspect. "A law must be revised based on solid field study and must respect public opinion," she said

8 mesures pour attirer les capitaux étrangers (France)

For this news in English, see N.Y.Times "France Tries to Tempt In More Foreign Investment" (17 Feb).

Poursuivant sa nouvelle politique économique davantage tournée vers l'investissement, et dans le contexte de la baisse de l'afflux de capitaux étrangers, le président F. Hollande a annoncé lors de la première réunion du conseil stratégique de l'attractivité  de nouvelles mesures pour améliorer la compétitivité de la France, que ce soit en matière de réforme marché du travail ou sur le terrain de la baisse des charges avec les discussions engagées sur le pacte de responsabilité Parmi elles, la suppression dès 2014 de la "déclaration préalable pour créer une entreprise en France par un investisseur étranger"  et lcréation de "France international entrepreneurs" regroupant l'Agence française des investissements internationaux et Ubifrance, la structure chargée d'accompagner les entreprises françaises à l'export. En parallèle, d'ici à la fin du premier trimestre, les start-up étrangères devraient disposer d'un interlocuteur unique pour leurs démarches. De plus, en 2015, le régime de la TVA applicable aux entreprises importatrices sera simplifié et, dès la fin de 2014, toutes les procédures en douane, à l'export comme à l'import, seront dématérialisées.  Pour le détail des autres mesures, voir Le Monde du 17 février. On signalera aussi un résumé des orientations de la politique de simplification en faveur des entreprises dans un discours prononcé  par le président de la République à Blagnac le 9 janvier.

Upgraded tool to monitor red-tape reduction (Philippines)

According to the PH Information Agency, the Philippine Civil Service Commission (CSC) entered into a partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the enhancement of the Anti-Red Tape Act (ARTA) Report Card Survey (RCS), Feb. 14. From the press release:

"ARTA RCS is an instrument used to check agency compliance with the various ARTA provisions, to gauge citizens’ satisfaction with the quality of government services, and to ask the citizens—as clients—to directly rate the performance of government offices insofar as frontline service delivery is concerned.The study on the ARTA RCS forms part of the Component 2 of the Integrity for Investments Initiative (i3) Project – Reducing Opportunities for Public Sector Corruption. It aims to provide the CSC with clear and implementable recommendations on how the Report Card Survey can be amended, revised, or reengineered to make the tool more effective and responsive for monitoring compliance to ARTA and anti-corruption laws and regulations.CSC Chairman Francisco T. Duque III expressed gratitude to the USAID and the Ateneo School of Government for the project. “We are confident that, with technical experts aboard, backed by a funding agency that is committed to assist countries like the Philippines in strengthening democracy and good governance, the project will result in a more effective implementation of the Anti-Red Tape Law,” he said.As the lead implementer of Republic Act No. 9485 or the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007, the CSC is at the forefront of cutting red tape and improving government frontline services. (...)The i3 Project is an undertaking by the Government of the Philippines and the US Government funded by the USAID that will work with anti-corruption offices to address the most serious constraints to economic growth by reducing the costs of corruption to investments and trade, thereby promoting open and fair competition.The research study is targeted to be completed by May 2014. (CSC)"

17 February 2014

Burdens reduced for European industrial products

Strengthening the effectiveness of the internal market for industrial products was identified as a priority in the October 2012 update on an Integrated Industrial Policy. Accordingly, the European Commission carried out an evaluation of EU law in the area of industrial products to assess the regulatory framework’s overall coherence and ‘fitness for purpose’ and to develop an evidence base on the cumulative regulatory effects from an industry perspective. In parallel, the Commission organised a public consultation of stakeholders. The ensuing Communication "A vision for the internal market for industrial products"  pushes for a more integrated internal market based on rationalising the existing regulatory framework. The Commission will also prepare a Regulation on Enforcement to help reinforce a level-playing field for compliant products in the EU. The Enterprise Europe Network will be reinforced to strengthen support for SMEs in the internal market and further enhance the assistance given for access to finance and for the innovation management capacity of SMEs. The new proposal contributes to the overall reduction of administrative burdens by aligning industrial product rules to a common set of principles thereby reducing sectoral fragmentation and conflicting or overlapping requirements for products which are governed by more than one piece of legislation. See press release dated 5 February and DG ENTR pages.

Conference on the impact of regulatory reform (World Bank)

On February 20 & 21, 2014, the World Bank Group will convene a research conference titled, Doing Business: Past, Present and Future of Business Regulation at the McDonough School of Business in Georgetown University in Washington, DC. The conference is co-sponsored by USAID and the Kauffman Foundation. The conference aims to bring together academics, World Bank Group staff and development professionals from around the world to discuss the impact of regulatory reform and to guide the Doing Business report project in the years to come. In the context of recent criticism levelled at the annual Doing Business ranking, this new wave of academic papers is expected to bolster the robustness of this major tool for comparing economies and their regulatory policies.

TTIP "creating regulatory coherence"

As a sequel to the post just below on "Better Regulation can facilitate trade", experts may like to check out A. Alemanno's reflections on the upcoming transatlantic trade negotiations (TTIP), published on his blog, which summarize for us a recent trend towards regulatory convergence or coherence across the "pond" in support of the further development of commercial exchanges. Here is an extract: "Given the emphasis of the agreement on tackling regulatory barriers, both the EU and US claim that TTIP would be  (...) one of the first FTAs construed upon a horizontal (i.e. cross-sectoral), regulatory coherence chapter, which should also remain a ‘living’ agreement, capable of incorporating news areas and creating the conditions to continuously adapt towards greater regulatory compatibility. This chapter would apply to all goods and services sectors thus providing a general discipline for policymakers when monitoring existing regulations and adopting new ones (NB: regulations here refer to both legislative and regulatory measures). More specifically, this horizontal regime is set to promote regulatory convergence through the adoption of a suite of procedural requirements, such as public consultation, regulatory impact assessment (RIA extended to cross-border effects), early warnings, ex post analysis of existing regulations, etc. that build upon – rather than duplicating – existing procedures under the relevant WTO Agreements, i.e. SPS and TBT. These will be upgraded within TTIP by becoming SPS+ and TBT+, but we don’t know yet whether the additions to the current discipline will merely consist in further procedural requirements or other disciplines. At a time of growing international interest and policy diffusion of these meta-rules (i.e. rules about how to adopt rules) and relatively failure of the multilateral trade regime to address NTBs, the prospect of using participatory and analytical tools to promote rationality in regulatory decision-making beyond the nation-state appears extremely appealing."

12 February 2014

"Better regulation can facilitate trade" (OECD)

OECD (Regulatory Policy Committee) work on International Regulatory Cooperation (IRC) has taken a big step forward with the organisation of a one-day joint workshop with the Trade Committee to investigate how sound regulatory policy could enhance the quality and effectiveness of trade agreements. It was also the first time that the newish community of regulatory experts formally joined forces with the Trade pundits to tap the potential of a synergy between the two bodies of expertise.
In the morning delegates heard a series of presentations (including one from A. Alemanno who recently wrote on the TTIP negotiations) researching how trade barriers related to regulatory heterogeneity could weigh down the desirable development of international commerce and thus impede growth. The afternoon session (chaired by your blogger) featured six national cases of successful experience with IRC mechanisms in support of trade policies and FTA negotiations. The closing session, chaired by the UK delegation, outlined a future programme of work that would substantiate the conclusion (formulated by F.van Tongeren from OECD) that "Better Regulation can facilitate trade." No doubt official proceedings will soon be made available on the IRC and Trade pages of the OECD site.
Background. Recent OECD work on Global Value Chains has provided a strong reminder of the importance of reducing protectionist measures, improving inefficient and unnecessary customs and other border procedures, and reducing the cost of ‘behind the border’ measures that constrain trade in goods and services. In particular, regulatory misalignment, both in policy formulation and application, increases the costs facing firms operating internationally and holds back growth and job-creation. The OECD publication "IRC: addressing global challenges" makes the point that IRC is intensifying but there are also concerns that multilateral and regional trade deals could lead to a weakening of legitimate domestic regulations. Achieving regulatory and policy objectives in an increasingly globalised world while respecting the need for openness internationally can be a challenge for governments.

03 February 2014

Naming and shaming bureaucrats (Canada)

Paperweight Awards (2) and Dishonourable Mentions (3) are some of the "prizes" awarded by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) at the close of its fifth annual Red Tape Awareness WeekTM to ministries not sufficiently attuned to the need to make life easier for SMEs. This is a highly visible way of drawing attention to worst cases of red tape, where administrations have cooked "ridiculous rules" imposing extra burden on small business. Most cases seem to be a knee-jerk reaction to a real issue such as fraud where the whole business sector is punished for the disdemeanour of a few truants, or the slopiness of the rule, where other solutions may have been just as effective, but at the cost of some extra work for the public agencies. It is difficult to say whether this "naming and shaming" technique is effective, but it has the merit of sending a strong signal that consultation on a review of the rules is necessary.

Tanzania announces regulatory reforms

At the official launching of the OECD's investment policy review of Tanzania, the Prime Minister announced his intention to grapple with "the most problematic areas in the performance of business sector in the country (which) include access to credit, corruption, complex procedures in securing construction permits, cross-border trade licenses, payment of taxes, land and property registration... The government would now make delibefrate efforts to review the legal framework and regulations that have been deterring smooth operation of investment projects." A booming economy with enviable growth rates, Tanzania still suffers from a poor Doing Business ranking (145th out of 189 in the 2014 report.) For more, see IP Media and read the summary of the review on the OECD site.

Bulgarian businessmen list BR priorities

At a press conference on 31 January of representatives of national employers' associations, the Chair of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry listed key obstructions faced by businesses, including red tape, constantly changing laws and limited access to funding. He emphasized that the Bulgarian President had not carried out his promise made upon assuming office to veto any law which had reached the stage of parliamentary debates without an impact assessment. He added that Bulgarian laws required a "repeat impact assessment" every six months, which had not happened so far.
Other priorities to improve the regulatory environment for business include harmonising tariffs for issuing permits across municpalities, reduction and simplification of the regulatory burden, the mandatory preparation of impact assessment of all laws and progress in the adoption of e-government.