Regulatory reforms have long been a focus for Southeast Asian nations, often as a
way to improve the business climate and policy frameworks for trade and investment.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has spurred countries around the world to review and
update their regulatory policies to respond to the current crisis and prepare for
the next one. This publication presents a snapshot of the current state of regulatory
reform across the region, with country profiles from all 10 Member States of the Association
of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) highlighting practices in three priority areas:
whole-of-government initiatives, good regulatory practices, and use of digital technologies.
It also offers an analysis of common themes identified across the profiles, including
trends in regulatory reform, common challenges faced by countries, and future priorities
in the region. It was developed in collaboration with the members of the ASEAN-OECD
Good Regulatory Practices Network, and key regional partners including the ASEAN Secretariat
and the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA).
International regulatory co-operation (IRC) continues to have a strong impact on better regulation in Southeast Asia, especially given the strategic priority placed by ASEAN on implementing systems to foster regional economic integration. While this focus on better regulation is reflected in high-level national strategic priority documents such as National Plans, they tend to be focused on improving the business environment, and less on regulatory reforms that support the environment or society more broadly
Regulatory impact assessment (RIA) is becoming more widely adopted as a way to drive evidence-based policy making but is often seen as a procedural barrier rather than its intention as a tool to fundamentally change the way policy makers approach a policy problem. Stakeholder consultation appears to be a constant in almost every ASEAN Member State, though fewer have it as a whole-of-government requirement and it is unclear how consultation changes regulation in practice. Ex post review continues to be dominated by burden-reduction programmes, reflecting early regulatory reform priorities in the region, with only half of the ASEAN Member States using post-implementation reviews or sunset clauses.
There is a clear movement amongst ASEAN Member States to adopt digital tools to improve regulatory policy design and delivery. All Member States have a national policy or strategy for promoting digitalisation, with a broad focus on public administration reforms. Most Member States focus on improving the business climate and procedures around designing or delivering regulations. However, it was recognised that digitalisation is not a cure-all and the unequal distribution of benefits need to be carefully addressed with holistic approaches to policy making.
Members of the ASEAN-OECD Good Regulatory Practices Network (GRPN) noted a number of common challenges to designing and implementing better regulation reforms. This includes the need for strong top-down leadership, aligning powers and functions of better regulation units with intended outcomes, the need for strong processes and institutions to affect system change, and appropriate resources to support long-term change and capacity building efforts.
GRPN members also noted several priorities for the future of better regulation reforms in the region. These include using better regulation reforms to improve the quality and delivery of public services, improving regulatory policy making beyond the use of good regulatory practices, and adopting innovative methods such as risk-based and behavioural approaches.