Regulations affect most aspects of life. Often, regulations are needed to protect and promote the public good. In areas such as health and safety, consumer protection and gender equality, regulations are needed to promote desired practices. But sometimes regulation can be an unnecessary burden. Small businesses, in particular, can suffer as a result of too much ‘red tape’. Regulatory reform aims to eliminate unnecessary regulations, and to promote better regulations in those areas where they are needed. To this end, on 1 June 1999 the government announced the adoption of a programme of regulatoryreform measures.
Regulatory Reform: Lessons from International Experience aims to support the government’s regulatoryreforminitiative by reviewing international practice with regard to regulatory reform. Several countries such as Australia, the Netherlands, Canada and the United Kingdom have been pursuing regulatoryreform for a number of years. There is much to learn from their experience that is of relevance to Ireland.
Following the introduction, Chapter 2 examines the principles behind and impact to date of regulatory reform programmes. Whilst the broad impacts are difficult to assess, key areas where reform is seen as impacting positively are identified, particularly with regard to economic performance, regulatoryquality, management capacities, and openness and accountability.
Chapter 3 assesses experience withthe planning and conduct of reviews of regulation. A key component here is analysis of the benefits and costs of regulation. To this end, experience with RegulatoryImpact Analysis (RIA) isreviewed. Whilst not without challenges in its implementation, RIA offers a powerful tool to promote better regulation.
In Chapter 4, the implementation and continuous improvement of regulatory reforms are discussed. The need for effective compliance procedures is highlighted, and a range of different compliance mechanisms identified. Similarly, complaint resolution procedures and review and feedback mechanisms are assessed.
Chapter 5 explores consultationand communication practices. The centralrole of user involvement in regulatoryreformprogrammes is highlighted. A user perspective is needed to ensure that regulations are workable, acceptable, and enforceable. Good practice guidelines for consultationand participation are highlighted.
Finally, in Chapter 6 the main lessons learned are drawn together and conclusions and recommendations made. These focus on the development of support structures at departmental and central levels to promote regulatory reform. Specific proposals are made to promote good practice in departments, including: the establishment of a system for tracking and registering regulations; the drawing up of an annual regulatory plan outlining changes proposed to regulations and regulation reviews to be undertaken; the development of a system of regulatory analysis; and the establishment of performance indicators to keep track of the impact of regulatory reform initiatives.