Excessive administrative burdens increase transaction costs in the market, impede the competitiveness of firms, limit initiative and encourage an informal economy. Overcoming such problems requires policies to improve the regulatory framework, streamline administrative procedures and reduce paperwork. The most basic objective of such programmes is to reduce red tape and its heavy burden on citizens, businesses and public administration. Chapter 6 describes recent administrative simplification experiences in Bahrain, Lebanon and Tunisia.
In recent years Bahrain has become impressively modernised. This has involved administrative simplification as a way to “create an environment highly conducive to entrepreneurship and innovation”. This modernisation has proceeded quickly driven by high-level political support, the creation of a Civil Service Bureau, co-ordination by several institutions and the development of tools for information and communications technology (ICT). The country also developed the Bahrain Investors’ Centre in 2003 as a one-stop shop that makes the process of registration more efficient and transparent for companies. The Ministry of Municipalities has also set up the Municipal One-Stop Shop as a single point for building permit requests for commercial centres and offices. The Bahraini e-Government Authority has launched a central website portal – Bahrain.bh – to provide a single reference point for information on Bahrain.
In Lebanon, the government has also been eager to promote administrative simplification. The process began in 2000 by putting together a team of experts to design specific reform proposals, provide training, prepare guidelines and establish links between officials across government. The use of e-government has been maintained throughout the 2000s in order to modernise public administration. Both e-government and administrative simplification can benefit from being combined strategically. To support the e-government strategy, a new Administrative Simplification Unit was created in the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR), which promotes reform and builds capacity. In co-operation with Libanpost, for example, it has established an express mail service that facilitates the exchange of official documents between citizens and the public administration. This case highlights the importance of high-level support and a user-friendly approach.
The Tunisia case study describes a re-engineering process, the National Strategy for Administrative Development (2007-11), through which administrative simplification is driven by the Prime Ministry. The goal is to improve transparency and limit discretion where there can be opportunities for corruption. Monitoring mechanisms, such as the Citizen Supervisor (established in 1993), have helped to improve service delivery. To facilitate economic activities, a reform to eliminate 90% of traditional licenses and permits was initiated in 2004. Furthermore, commitment to the ISO 9001 quality management mechanism has driven the government to improve administrative procedures – the ISO system requires more transparent, accountable and efficient mechanisms.