Reduce Regulatory Complexity to Ensure Inclusive Recovery

PNI News, September 14, 2020

The likelihood of K-shaped economic recovery from Covid-19 with rich becoming richer and poor becoming poorer is real and it will impact the poor most adversely” said Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International while launching a webinar on Reducing the Unease of Living.

To discuss ways to prevent such scenarios and discuss actionable reforms, CUTS International and SKOCH Group jointly organised a webinar recently.

This webinar is a part of series of events on Regulatory Reforms for building a narrative for reimagining a better regulatory architecture for India, convened jointly by CUTS & SKOCH Group.

Mr Mehta highlighted that we lack an institutionalised mechanism to identify and examine the sub-optimal regulations. This has a direct impact on the ease of living of citizens, particularly women, workers, consumers, informal and micro entrepreneurs, and low income citizens, which goes beyond their personal lives and is visible in the low skilled and low productivity jobs.

There is a need to move towards an approach of regulatory reforms which is aimed at reducing the unease of living for citizens. This can happen by making citizen well-being paramount and applying a three step test for examining the legality, necessity and proportionality to filter out sub-optimal regulations.

Sameer Kochhar, Chairman, SKOCH Group, pointed out that institutions like resident welfare associations, municipal bodies & agencies monitoring compliances under labour, taxation and other laws often act beyond their remit and hinder the ease of living of people, especially women, small entrepreneurs and people working from home. Many such compliances go against the very groups they intend to protect.

Anil Bhardwaj, Secretary General, FISME, stressed on three types of policy issues which stigmatise self-employed workers, informal and small entrepreneurs. These are: zoning policies, electricity charges, and housing tax on commercial enterprises. These envisage straitjackets and strict separation between formal and informal economy which is not possible.

The cost of formalisation for an informal enterprise is quite high. There is immediate need to adopt low-hanging practical reforms like allowing dual use of property, rationalising electricity and housing tax charges.

Mr. Rajendra Bhanawat, former IAS officer, and Chairman, Society for Study of Education & Development (SANDHAN) stated that citizens feel neglected because there is a false notion of seeking importance among government officials. This is based on distrust, particularly at lower and middle levels of administration.

Ease of living is not percolating downwards to the last person but is gushing up, and economic divide is increasing. It is necessary to demystify the functioning of government work to enable ordinary citizen to gain confidence in the system. There is a need of reducing the number of laws and transform current laws with texts containing simple words and short sentences.

Rajiv Tikoo, Senior Journalist, highlighted that the short-term approach is a compulsion and not a choice for MSMEs as it makes risk management easy for them. Disproportionate focus on digital communications is resulting in digital divide. There is a need for national media and communication policy to ensure two-way interaction between government and citizens.

The event was concluded by Amol Kulkarni, Director (Research), CUTS International, who said that mechanisms like Regulatory Impact Assessment and cost-benefit analysis could go a long way in reducing regulatory complexity, promote ease of living, and facilitate an inclusive economic recovery.  

A content rich vote of thanks was also extended by Dr. Gursharan Dhanjal, Managing Director & Editor, SKOCH Group who stated that regulatory reforms are a pre-condition to reduce unease of living and ensure inclusive economic growth.

The webinar, telecasted on various SKOCH platforms, was attended by over 130 participants.

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