Thursday 9 February 2017

Principles of Regulation - Staying True to the Cause

Most regulators were established via laws passed by the Parliament. Through such laws, their purposes, functions and enabling powers were defined. Let's take a pause here and reflect the essence of being established through an act of Parliament.

Parliament is where the representatives of the people meet to debate and enact laws. Once passed, these laws would be binding on all Malaysians. In theory, all laws must be created on the premise that they would bring greater good to our society. Not everyone would win, some might lose if their conducts are against public interests. For example, a person who committed an act of corruption, if convicted based on the provisions of the anti-corruption laws, could be sent to prison.

Hence, all regulators should not lose sight of the reasons why they were established, to bring benefits to the people and to prevent those who conduct themselves in ways which are detrimental to the interests of the society from causing further harm. Some regulators have another dimension to their purpose of establishment, to develop and grow certain economic sectors which in turn would provide opportunities to Malaysians to participate and enjoy the prosperity of this nation.

This is the reason in formulating new laws and regulations, the regulatory objectives must be determined clearly and should be within the regulatory mandates of regulators. As discussed in previous postings, once these objectives are set, they ways to get the outcomes should be as such that it does not be more burdensome than necessary. 

In practice, there could be challenges which regulators have to face in pursuing their regulatory mandates. 

As laws are passed by politicians, they are open to lobbying by interest groups which have their selfish interests to pursue. While this could be a fair game in a democratic process, we do not want situations where decisions are made not on fair regulatory principles where the centre is the people but based on who could shout the loudest. This will turn our regulatory processes to something which are practised in primary schools.

One other challenges is when regulators forgot their own raison d'ĂȘtre. As a regulator matures into an institution, sometimes institutional interests could also be the cause of conflict. While institutionalising regulatory authorities is important so that they could be pillars which our society could rely on, they should never be allowed to override public interests. I am sure we do not want the tail to whack the dog.

In staying the cause, regulators need to bring people with competencies and conscience who are technically competent in areas which they are responsible for and would never waive from protecting public interests notwithstanding pressures exerted upon them from within and without. Do we have such people nowadays?

To compliment the human component, regulators should also establish regulatory principles, processes and organisational structures which would preserve their regulatory mandates. These processes and checks and balances would allow them to deal with pressures and lobbies. This does not mean that they are closing their ears from the views of their stakeholders but would provide counterbalance for any unfair pressures, especially from politicians who may not place public interests as the basis of their views.

Transparency would also help regulators to do their work. If the society is aware of what are the intention of regulators, opposing views and the principles on which decisions would be made, it would be rather challenging for those who are not bothered about public interests to pursue their agenda. The public has their role to play is they want Malaysia to be a country which provides fair opportunities to those who want to work hard. They cannot just be demanding fair treatment but do not want to be involved in issues which are handled by regulators.

This article concludes a series of postings on regulatory principles, issues and challenges which are faced by regulators. I trust the views shared here would provide some insights on regulatory business and why we, the Joe public, should be concern with how our regulatory agencies are playing their roles in making Malaysia a great country for every citizen to benefit from its prosperity. 

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