Plan panel seeks public comments on Regulatory Reforms Bill

The Economic Times, May 24, 2010

The Planning Commission is seeking comments from various stakeholders on the Regulatory Reforms Bill, which aims at setting up a commission to oversee the regulations in 12 infrastructure sectors, including power, airport and gas.

“The draft bill is being placed in the public domain for eliciting views and opinions in the nature and extent of legislative action necessary for reforming the regulation of key infrastructure services,” the Planning Commission said.

The plan panel, along with non-governmental organisation CUTS International, had recently organised a round table of experts from various fields for eliciting their views and opinions and has also send the draft bill to various industry bodies and financial institutions.

The Regulatory Commission will issue licences; specify the principles relating determination of tariffs and other charges; enforce standards with respect to quality and reliability of services; set performance standards; adjudicate disputes and; aid and advice the government on public utility industry matters, among other things.

“The need for such an initiative arises because economic liberalisation has distanced the relationship between state ownership and the responsibility for providing infrastructure services, as compared to the earlier arrangement where infrastructure was provided almost exclusively by the public sector,” the Planning Commission said in the preface to the bill.

Earlier, the plan panel had come out with an approach paper on regulatory reforms, pointing out that there was a need to bring all watchdogs under a common head as there are many independent regulators while a number of sectors do not have them at all.

India has many sector-specific watchdogs like TRAI for telecommunications and broadcasting, IRDA for the insurance sector and SEBI for the capital market.

However, social sector does not have any independent regulator while the energy sector is not regulated at all.

Earlier Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia had said, “The purpose of the draft regulatory reform bill is to bring uniformity in various approaches to regulatory reforms… Civil society could play an important role in ensuring that regulatory capture does not take place, which will handicap the independence of regulatory commissions.”

The new commission would be applicable to electricity, telecommunications and internet, broadcasting and cable TV, posts, airports, ports, railways and rapid transit system, highways, oil ans gas, coal, water supply and sanitation, and waterways sectors.

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