Regulation: where is it? What is it? Is this a real issue?
A hundred days out from the New Zealand election a number of issues are buzzing: housing, immigration, water, climate change, electricity bills, and the perennials, economic growth, incomes and taxes and law and order. Based on previous contests, some of these will become the raw material of the political debates while others will fade to the background. So why are we writing this piece about the quality of our regulatory system? The simple answer is that most of the things mentioned above depend to a greater or lesser extent on the working of one or more aspects of the regulation system. So, despite the lack of visibility, its effect is widespread and it is going to feature one way or another in the campaigns.
We are focused on economic aspects of regulation and on the high-level design factors that ensure that our regulatory mechanisms are fit for purpose, and remain fit for purpose. Limited space means we will not deal with operational quality and the need for skilled people to deliver the services effectively.
Where does this take us?
Many of the issues that are going to be debated this election year involve difficult regulatory policy. The New Zealand system is setting high standards. But we are still concerned about the capacity of the wider public sector to produce durable regulation in difficult cases. In sum: it’s about strengthening durability through marginal gains. Three factors are important: clearer fundamentals are required, with a focus on the problem definition; more resources need to be allocated towards monitoring and review; and more effort is required in working with sectors to socialise policy approaches.