In the framework of Working Group IV of the GfD Initiative, co-chaired by Tunisia, the United Kingdom and Italy a meeting of a Focus Group on Regulatory Reform back-to-back with a Special Session of the OECD Working Party on Regulatory Management and Reform was held in Paris at the OECD headquarters on 28 September 2005. At the successful first meeting of Working Group IV in Tunis on 28-29 June 2005, participants from Arab countries had agreed to benefit from such a special session of the OECD Working Party to share know-how on implementing regulatory reform and to plan further co-operative efforts.
Policy-experts and representatives from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Sudan and Tunisia as well as 14 members of the OECD Working Party on Regulatory Management and Reform and other representatives of OECD countries attended the meeting. In addition, BIAC was represented as well. The meeting was chaired by Mr. Vincenzo Schioppa (Italy), co-chair of Working Groups II and IV, and by Mr. George Redling (Canada), co-chair of the special regulatory reform sub-group.
Overall, the presentations and discussions at this back-to-back meeting provided representatives from Arab and OECD countries with insight into the challenges – some similar, some different – which Arab and OECD countries face when implementing regulatory reform. Arab participants’ clearly expressed their appreciation of this exchange as a platform for future work, and their strong interest to elaborate regional and bilateral follow-up activities following the meeting, based on mutual interest of Arab and OECD countries.
Substantive presentations of case studies from Morocco and Tunisia indicated the range of experience across Arab countries and the rapid rate of change in recent years. They confirmed the importance of public-private partnerships as a tool in the transition process from public to private provision of services in Arab countries, and delineated the role of the state in setting strategic choices for the medium term.
The results of a comparative survey on the recent reforms of the telecommunications sector in 15 Arab countries were presented by Connexus Consulting, Lebanon. Although telecommunications has clearly been the leading edge sector for setting up independent regulatory authorities in Arab countries, the results of this survey showed the need for further efforts, driven by political commitment at the highest level, to ensure the autonomy and powers of regulatory authorities.
The United Kingdom, co-chair of Working Group IV, gave presentations on public service delivery and regulatory reform, calling attention to a focus on customers to help raise standards for delivery. Case studies from Mexico and the Czech republic showed how countries, often starting from a very low level of institutional capacity, have been able to put in place robust institutional frameworks for improving the quality of regulation, and for methods of consultation and evaluation that meet the expectations of investors and citizens who are increasingly aware of the difference that good governance makes. Managing change in regulatory regimes was addressed by OECD experts and Korea. Key tools for consultation, action plans, and human capacity-building were highlighted by the United States, Denmark, and Italy.
The envisaged formats of follow-up activities, subject to further specification before the next meeting of Working Group IV, based on various discussions of this Special Session, include the following:
Comparative baseline assessment of the current state of regulatory reform in Arab countries on the basis of a focused questionnaire. The objective of this survey is to provide a picture of priorities, objectives and barriers, to help Arab countries prepare country action plans.
Bilateral co-operation based on mutual interests among OECD and Arab countries will be strengthened. This will include workshops and seminars with scope for examples that illustrate the challenges of area-based regulatory measures to promote economic development, as for example in development zones.
Regional co-operation will focus on the setting up of an observatory on regional regulatory frameworks, and the preparation of a charter on law-making among interested parties which can lead to country action plans. This will fit within the scope of the Joint Task Force on Administrative Simplification and Regulatory Reform established in order to facilitate exchange between the two pillars of the MENA Initiative.
Consultation, Sector Specific Studies and Public Private Partnership have been identified by Arab participants as key themes for future work.
Administrative Simplification together with e-government is the main theme of WG II. It has been identified as a cross-cutting theme of WG I on Civil Service and Integrity and of WG IV, and is particularly relevant to the theme of regulatory reform. A case study on the political and administrative risks and opportunities associated with administrative simplification will be prepared under the leadership of Tunisia.
Scheduling of Future Meetings. A second meeting of Working Group IV is planned for May 2006. Further meetings back-to-back with the Working Party on Regulatory Management and Reform are envisaged after the completion of the comparative baseline assessment and the stocktaking phase of the GfD Initiative.
The OECD Secretariat will assist and support country teams engaged in the comparative baseline asessment, and in building regional co-operation, leading to action plans; the OECD will also support future work on administrative simplification and specific topics for sectoral and regulatory reform.