International Regulatory Reform Conference 2009 in Stockholm 12 to 13 November

This year’s International Regulatory Reform Conference was hosted jointly by the Board of Swedish Industry and Commerce for Better Regulation (NNR), the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications and the Bertelsmann Stiftung. More than 400 delegates from over 40 countries gathered in Stockholm to discuss strategies for ensuring that regulation supports, rather than hinders, entrepreneurial activity and economic growth. The first day was spent discussing regulatory simplification measures that have delivered results for stakeholders and day two was used to explore future better regulation initiatives. The conference hosts are especially grateful to all speakers and moderators who helped us make the conference a success.  

Below is a summary of the conference’s plenary sessions and workshops. If you have any questions regarding the conference, please do not hesitate to contact Karin Atthoff or Jens Hedström.

Day 1: Opening Plenary Session

In her keynote speech during the opening session, the Swedish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Enterprise and Energy, Maud Olofsson, underlined that better regulation can play a big part in tackling the current economic downturn and provide important tools for recovery. Mrs Olofsson also spoke about the Swedish Government’s ambitious simplification programme and how Sweden is using its EU presidency to keep better regulation at the top of the EU political agenda. She also underlined how efficient regulation can support the necessary move to eco-efficient economies. 

NNR President, Jens Hedström, spoke about the importance of dialogue and co-operation between government and business when new regulations are being decided or existing ones changed. He said that the responsibility for decisions made about regulation is with government, but business representatives have an important role to play in helping to develop those decisions.

The third keynote speech was delivered by Member of the European Court of Auditors, Henri Grethen. Mr Grethen presented his view of what the main preliminary findings, conclusions and recommendations of the Court’s audit of the EU Commission’s impact assessment system are.

Efficiency of Regulation – the Why, When and How to Regulate

In a workshop chaired by Bertelsmann Stiftung Director, Frank Frick, the topic of how to establish a good evidence-base for decisions about regulation was discussed. Marc Hostert, national detached expert at the European Court of Auditors, gave a more in-depth view of the Court’s audit of the efficiency of the EU Commission’s impact assessment system.  OECD Program Manager, Caroline Varley, gave the audience an overview of the joint OECD/EU Commission project on better regulation designed to review and assess progress on regulatory management capacities of 15 EU Member States. Mr Frick made the point that even if the main focus of the conference was on better regulation for business, reduced bureaucracy for citizens is also important to take into account in the regulation debate.

A second workshop featured the Chairmen of the four European independent watchdogs – Stig von Bahr from the Swedish Regelrådet, Steven van Eijck from the Dutch Actal, Johannes Ludewig from the German Normenkontrollrat and Michael Gibbons from the UK Regulatory Policy Committee. In a session chaired by Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers Advisor, Sigrid Verweij, the ‘watchdogs’ talked about the importance of independent scrutiny of the quality of regulatory proposals and methods to conduct this successfully.  Ms Verweij concluded that with so many results achieved by the ‘watchdogs’, all countries need to establish a body for independent scrutiny of regulatory proposals.

As important as ex-ante impact assessment of regulatory proposals, are ex-post reviews of existing regulation to ascertain if it is operating as intended. In a workshop chaired by Senior Advisor at the Confederation of Danish Industries, Jesper Friis, delegates heard from EU-Commission Director, Marianne Klingbeil, and Assistant Secretary at the Australian Department of Finance and Deregulation, Matthew Bishop. Dr Klingbeil spoke about the EU Commission’s new programme for evaluation of legislation and the need to look at ‘reality’ after effects have been estimated in an impact assessment. Mr Bishop told the audience about how his Deregulation group has succeeded in making its ongoing review of all federal legislation in Australia manageable.

Deputy Director General at the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications, Göran Grén, chaired a workshop on stakeholder involvement in policy decisions. Swedish State Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Rolf Eriksson, and Federation of Swedish Framers Board Member, Helena Jonsson, spoke about the benefits of a close co-operation between government and stakeholders in work to improve regulation for business. 

Enforcement of Regulation – How to Make it a Smooth Process for Business

In the workshop on how to find out what really burdens business about regulation, chaired by Legal advisor at the Belgian Federation of Enterprise, Stefaan Verhamme, the audience heard about two innovative projects. The first was the Belgian Kafka Project presented by representative from the Belgian Administrative Simplification Agency, Dannie Goossens. Project Manager at the Danish consultancy MindLab, Jakob Schjørring, explained their ‘Burden Hunters’ project and how it has involved businesses in identifying regulatory burdens.

Another workshop was about initiatives to bring better regulation to the local level in the UK. Chair of the UK Local Better Regulation Office, Clive Grace, and Director at RAND Europe, Tom Ling, discussed the benefits of improving regulation and reducing regulatory costs at local level. For example, it has made it possible to co-ordinate inspection in order that businesses only have to prepare for one inspection covering all areas at once. 

Having to submit the same or similar information more than once to government is often cited by business as a burden. NNR Senior Advisor, Andrea Femrell, chaired a workshop on how, in Norway, business reporting obligations have been reduced through the creation of the Register of Reporting Obligations of Enterprises. Deputy Director of the Brønnøysund register, Anne Marthe Hesjadalen, explained the model used for the register and how it works in practice. Executive Director for Industrial Affairs at the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise, Petter Haas Brubakk, gave the business view of the Register and said it was an important tool for simplification. Mr Brubakk also argued, however, that reduction of reporting obligations has to be complemented by other simplification measures and that it is important for government to have a reduction target to work towards.

Whether government measures to simplify the regulatory environment for business is delivering noticeable results was the topic of a workshop in which Senior Tax and Company Law Expert at the Swedish Federation of Business Owners and Member of the ‘Stoiber High Level Group’, Annika Fritsch, was joined by Assistant Auditor General at the UK National Audit Office, Ed Humpherson, and Head of Parliamentary and Regulatory Affairs at the UK Institute of Directors, Alexander Ehmann. Business perceptions of regulation and how to improve these were the main topics of discussion in the workshop. How businesses perceive regulation matters because it influences investment decisions and the level of trust in the regulatory system. Surveys show that although the costs of regulation, as measured using the SCM, have decreased, business is not experiencing an improvement. Governments need to improve how they communicate improvements achieved, focus on change in regulatory areas perceived as most burdensome and irritating by business and implement the type of changes that businesses are asking for.   

Regulatory Reform Programmes in Asia and Africa

In plenary session 2, the audience learned about the benefits to developing countries of long-term efforts to improve the regulatory environment. The speakers represented front-runners of regulatory reform among developing countries. Eva Jhala from Zambia, Frank Twagira from Rwanda and Ngo Hai Phan and Nguyen Viet Anh from Vietnam shared their insights and experiences of designing and running regulatory reform programmes. The session was chaired by World Bank representatives, Pierre Guislain and Peter Ladegaard. 

Day 2: Where Next for Better Regulation and Regulatory Reform

Talking about the future of better regulation initiatives, many speakers agreed that the current economic crisis provides opportunities to create efficient regulation that can withstand economic cycles. Associate Administrator of the US Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Michael Fitzpatrick, talked about the work of the Obama administration to improve regulation and its use of ‘humanised cost-benefit analysis’ and behavioural sciences to analyse what regulatory tools really work and influence behaviours. OECD Deputy Secretary General, Aart de Geus, underlined the importance of post-implementation review of regulation and consideration of how regulation is perceived by those who have to comply with it. The Spanish Confederation of Employers and Industries expert on better regulation, José Ignacio Gafo Fernandez, gave an account of how Spanish business and government are co-operating to remedy the Spanish bureaucracy described as the ‘Spanish flu’.

Better Regulation: Messages for the Future

In a workshop on the effects on regulation on economic performance, Professor Pelkmans of the College of Europe, Professor Karlson of the Swedish Ratio Institute and Professor Müller of the University of St. Gallen discussed both direct and indirect effects, and costs, of regulation on business and economic performance. A main challenge is the inherently difficult question of finding the optimal level of regulation and how to achieve public goals using regulation without creating negative effects for business.

Former Vice President of Financial & Private Sector Development at the World Bank, Michael Klein, chaired a workshop in which Michael Fitzpatrick and Branch Chief of OIRA, Alexander Hunt, spoke in more detail and answered questions from the audience about US regulatory reform and the role of OIRA in conducting review of federal regulations.

In a discussion chaired by OECD Senior Advisor, Edward Donelan, Executive Vice President of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, Annika Lundius, Director of Regulatory Reform and the Dutch Ministry of Finance, Jeroen Nijland, and OECD Analyst in the Regulatory Policy Division, Gregory Bounds, talked about how the better regulation agenda has developed and lessons learned. Mrs Lundius welcomed that efficient regulation is now widely recognised as a key political and business issue. She also highlighted the importance of stakeholders’ involvement, that the ‘rules of the game’ must be easy to understand and that ex-post implementation of regulation is a part of the regulatory process that must not be overlooked. Mr Nijland’s messages included the need for widening the scope of better regulation programmes to include consideration of, for example, other than administrative costs, irritation factors and perceptions of regulation and simplification at local level. Mr Bounds argued that innovation, effective use and management of regulation will be important factors for future better regulation efforts.

OECD Principal Administrator in the Regulatory Policy Division, Stéphane Jacobzone, led a workshop with its starting point in a new OECD report on regulatory reform and strategies for crisis recovery. Director General of the Economic Regulatory Reform Bureau in the Prime Minister’s Office in South Korea, Hong Keun Gil, gave an account of the successful crisis management and deregulation strategy used in South Korea in 1997 and how reforms implemented then has supported economic growth and have been useful in meeting the current crisis. The Swedish perspective was presented by Chief Economist at the Swedish Federation of Business Owners, Lars Jagrén. Mr Jagrén argued that policy-makers must ‘think small first’ and that regulation must be dynamic and suitable for a fast-changing marketplace.

Closing Plenary Session on Messages for Future Better Regulation Work

Board Member of Bertelsmann Stiftung, Jörg Dräger, presented messages on, among other things, ownership and how to involve citizens in the legislative process. He argued that government should focus on creating an appropriate regulatory environment as a response to an economic crisis, rather than step in as owners of companies in difficulties.

Swedish State Secretary at the Ministry of the Environment, Elisabeth Falemo, argued that apart from reducing the cost to business people of complying with regulation, the two most important challenges for regulators are the current economic crisis and climate change.

The EU Commission was represented by Director of Industrial Policy and Economic Reforms, Viola Groebner, who emphasised the importance that better regulation will have for the next Barroso Commission and that political leadership is necessary for reaching the EU target of reducing administrative costs to business of regulation by 25 percent by 2012.

The messages from business were presented by President of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, and Vice President of BUSINESSEUROPE, Signhild Arnegård Hansen. Mrs Arnegård Hansen had three main messages to the next EU Commission. Firstly, priority should be given to implementing the ongoing better regulation process, secondly efforts to improve the Community acquis has to be kept at the top of the EU political agenda, and finally, the principles of cost-effectiveness, proportionality, efficiency and relevance should guide all decisions about policy and legislation. Mrs Arnegård Hansen also encouraged government officials at national and EU level to always bear in mind that that any time business people spend complying with regulation is unproductive time.

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