Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Defensive? Moi?

I was fossicking around in the work that the Productivity Commission has been doing on regulatory institutions and practices - and if you want to get your tuppence in with a submission on their draft report (summary here, whole thing here) don't forget you'll need to get it to them by May 8 - and I came across this very interesting survey that the Commission organised about businesses' perceptions of regulators and regulation.

One finding in particular caught my eye: here it is.

Now, I spent a fair few years in the regulatory game, and I have to confess that my first reaction was rather defensive. It can't have been me that was unpredictable, inflexible, judge and jury, deaf, and opaque. Must have been those clots round at Internal Affairs. Or the NZQA. One of them.

And part of me wants to point out that there's always going to be a tension between the regulators and the regulated. Regulators want to stop or limit people doing things they'd prefer to do, and make them do things they'd rather not, and funnily enough, the regulated don't always take it kindly.

And, while I'm still on a defensive tack, here we have the voice of the regulated, but we don't hear the voice of the consumers for whose long-term benefit (to quote s1A of the Commerce Act) this whole regulatory caper has been organised.

Right. Enough of the denial. 

It's not a good enough score-card, is it? And if your next thought is, what ideas do I have for fixing this, for now I'm going to exercise the blogger's prerogative and sidle towards the exit.

I will add this: regulators may be unpredictable, inflexible, and all the rest of it. But at least they behave nice, going by the top three results in the table below.

More seriously, though, again some serious issues are being surfaced, particularly in those last two results if you take them at face value. If a regulator is genuinely at sea on industry issues, there's real scope for regulatory error.

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