Briefing paper

Regulatory quality and COVID-19: managing the risks and supporting the recovery

COVID-19 Community recovery Economic assistance Pandemics Government regulatory policy Risk Public health Public sector

The exceptional situation of the COVID-19 pandemic underlines the importance of regulation, alongside taxing, spending and communicating, as one of the most relevant levers of government action.

This note by the OECD Secretariat in consultation with the Chairs and the Bureaus of the Regulatory Policy Committee and the Network of Economic Regulators provides guidance and principles to regulators at all levels of governments.

  • Regulatory issues are vital at nearly every stage of resolving the health crisis and its social and economic effects. Lifting non-critical administrative barriers can help expedite the delivery of critical products. “Emergency” regulations can be adopted through “fast-track” procedures. This does not mean, however, an absence of scrutiny, and can be combined with careful review after implementation and, potentially, sunset clauses.
  • Ensuring that enforcement of such measures is proportionate to the level of risk can help limit unnecessary administrative burdens on citizens, businesses and the public sector.
  • In a context where consulting with all potentially affected parties on urgent measures is challenging, policy makers may rely on advisory groups consisting of experts from all relevant areas. On crucial decisions, at least social partners and local governments might still be consulted, if time allows.
  • A wide array of international regulatory co-operation approaches can be used to align government responses. This may involve international evidence gathering and sharing to aid in the design of emergency rules, aligning regulations or using mutual recognition to expedite administrative processes and facilitate the trade of essential products, such as protective equipment, for example.
  • Innovative approaches can make policies more effective. Digital technologies, including artificial intelligence and big data, can help provide relevant information, faster, to those designing regulations. Recognising the behavioural drivers of human actions and factoring them into policy responses can increase effectiveness.
  • Ensuring optimal outcomes for investors, workers and consumers is more important than ever in network sectors such as e-communications, energy, transport and water. By adhering to good governance practices and robust decision-making processes, economic sector regulators can help ensure the quality, reliability and affordability of critical services and the soundness and predictability of their own decision-making.
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