مقررات اقتصادی مستقل: ارزیابی مجدد از نقش آن در توسعه پایدار
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|29271||2007||9 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||محاسبه نشده|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Utilities Policy, Volume 15, Issue 4, December 2007, Pages 261–269
The established ‘standard’ model of economic regulation is characterised by independent economic regulators undertaking specialised tasks. There is a clear perception that the roles and responsibilities of regulators are and should be reduced to the execution of the core function, i.e. economic regulation. We argue that this needs to be reassessed in the context of sustainable development in which the integration of economic, social and environmental policy objectives are fundamental. The established model is particularly confronted by problems of regulatory policy indivisibility (social, economic and environmental matters are intertwined at technical levels) and information asymmetry (regulators often have more knowledge of environmental and social effects of economic regulation than government). We propose a ‘revised standard’ model in which economic regulators are more clearly integrated into the regulatory state's system of governance. Economic regulators retain their independent core specialism but at the same time are encouraged to use their knowledge and expertise to address the social and environmental implications of their core decisions. This is achieved not by extending their decision making powers but by encouraging and facilitating a direct engagement by regulators with the appropriate public authorities on social and environmental decision making. The onus is not only on regulators to engage but also on government which should welcome and encourage such engagement. Although there is some evidence in Britain that the model reflects actual practice, it needs to be more deeply and widely embedded and institutionalised. This can be achieved by high level governmental commitment including specification in sustainable development strategies and principles of good regulation.
The need for modern industrial society to be sustainable is widely recognised. The notion of ‘sustainable development’ has wide currency and its promotion is high on the agenda of many governments, governmental and non-governmental organisations. A whole raft of institutions, policy ideas, programmes and instruments have been established and are in force; many more have been conceived and are on policy agendas. ‘Policy integration’, that is the integration of economic, environmental and social ‘pillars’, is fundamental to sustainable development (OECD, 2002a, p. 10). Sectors such as energy, transport and water have a substantial impact on the environment and provide socially important services. Economic regulators have become established as leading public bodies in the governance of these sectors and their activities impact substantially on sustainable development. It would seem therefore that policy integration has to apply to the work of the regulators. A ‘standard’ model of economic regulation characterised by specialisation and independence has become established. There is a clear perception that the model stresses above all the reduction of the roles and responsibilities of economic regulators to a single and separable specialised core task, i.e. economic regulation (the control of monopoly power and the promotion of competition) and its independent execution. This model of regulation and the idea that policy integration should apply to the regulators to achieve sustainable development thus appear to be in conflict. Central questions of this paper therefore are: should independent economic regulators strive to integrate economic, environmental and social objectives in order to contribute to sustainable development, and if so how? This has been prompted by a new policy in Britain: a statutory duty on the energy, water and rail regulators to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development.1 There have been increasing concerns about sustainable development generally, notably climate change and, in the sectors, increasing action by the regulators on environmental and social matters (Owen, 2004 and Owen, 2006). The pressure for the duty arose from concerns that the economic regulators were excessively focused on the control of monopoly power, the development of competitive markets and lower prices which can clash with sustainable development objectives, notably environmental protection. Owen, 2006 argues that, although economic objectives have been prioritised, there have been social and environmental objectives since the inception of modern utility regulation in Britain (in the 1980s). If legitimate social and environmental objectives are to be achieved the implementation of economic regulation must be seen in the context of these objectives and a sustainable development duty is appropriate. The literature on policy integration focuses primarily on the extent to which it has been part of governmental agendas and how it can be achieved in specific circumstances (OECD, 2002a). However, as Lafferty and Hovden, 2003 note, much of the literature does not explore the concept in depth and assumes that policy integration is primarily about ‘balancing’ the three pillars in decision making processes. They explore the concept more extensively and distinguish three key features of policy integration: comprehensiveness, aggregation and consistency (Lafferty and Hovden, 2003, p. 8). Comprehensiveness means ‘the incorporation of environmental objectives into all stages of policy making in non-environmental policy sectors’ and implies that policy integration applies to all units and activities of public administration, not just the top level (Lafferty and Hovden, 2003). This can mean big changes as decision-making in many lower level administrative units is often based primarily on economic rationales and sometimes governmental rules exclude decision-making based on any other reasoning (Rao, 2000, p. 349). Aggregation and consistency involve ‘an attempt to aggregate presumed environmental consequences into an overall evaluation of policy, and a commitment to minimise contradictions between environmental and sectoral policies by giving principled priority to the former over the latter’ (Lafferty and Hovden, 2003, p. 9). Rather than balancing environmental objectives with others, priority should be given when nature's limits have been reached and ‘potentially irreversible damage to life-support systems’ is being faced (Lafferty and Hovden, 2003, p. 10). The application of policy integration to all stages of policy making implies that economic regulators should also engage with policy integration for sustainable development and that a statutory duty appears to be an appropriate way to require them to do it. However, much of the literature on economic regulation and the modern state suggests that there is a problem in expecting policy integration to be directly addressed by the economic regulators. Policy separation, functional and sectoral specialisation are fundamental to the modern regulatory state and the creation of independent regulators and have added to the policy separation intrinsic to the departmentalisation of government (Kavanagh and Richards, 2001). The parallel rise in executive agencies is also perceived to add to policy fragmentation (Talbot, 2004, p. 4). In the ‘standard’ model of economic regulation specialist and independent economic regulators focus primarily on economic regulation (monopoly and promotion of competition). Independent regulatory agencies have a degree of discretion and there are mechanisms by which government and legislators can control agencies (Knott and Hammond, 2003, pp. 143–144). The new duty of sustainable development presents particular problems of agency discretion. Just what are agencies expected to do and how should they respond? Duties placed on agencies can help set boundaries but they are not always clear, there is often much space for discretion (Graham, 2000). Agencies might not always have the means or will to establish priorities to make bold initiatives. New requirements can provide ‘opportunities and headaches’ for regulatory agencies; there are opportunities to develop new ideas and approaches but how should they behave with a new concept on the horizon? (O'Riordan and Voisey, 1998, p. 37). All of this creates difficulties in setting priorities, a fundamental aspect of policy integration; economic, environmental and social objectives can and often do clash and trade-offs are required. A ‘top-down’ notion of policy integration can be conceived which would not involve economic regulators directly engaging with sustainable development. Regulators operate within constraints set by government or other agencies (e.g. taxes, emissions trading quotas, subsidies for sustainability and poverty policy). Establishing priorities, such as the necessary environmental constraints on human activity, setting parameters and trade-offs, are inherently political matters and are made by democratically elected politicians in government rather than technocratic regulators. Within this standard model of economic regulation, objectives other than economic are not the responsibility of the economic regulator and a statutory duty to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development does not seem appropriate. We argue that this top-down policy integration is not sufficient to enable effective policy integration of social, environmental and economic objectives in economic regulation. Drawing on our research on economic regulators and sustainable development we propose a ‘revised standard’ model in which economic regulators are more clearly integrated into the regulatory state's system of governance and engage more directly with social and environmental objectives (Bartle and Vass, 2006). In the next section the ‘standard model’ of economic regulation is outlined together with the way in which a top-down form of policy integration can be achieved. Section 3 focuses on the limitations of top-down policy integration. It is particularly the indivisibility of regulatory objectives at the lower and more technical level of regulation, combined with information and expertise asymmetry between the regulator and the higher levels of government which limit the effectiveness of top-down policy integration. Section 4 then introduces a revised standard model in which policy integration is addressed at the level of the regulators in tandem with other public bodies and high levels of government. Section 5 concludes.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Should independent economic regulators strive to integrate economic, environmental and social objectives in order to contribute to sustainable development, and if so how? The questions are particularly pertinent in the light of the duty of sustainable development imposed on the rail, water and energy regulators in Britain. On the face of it, the compatibility of policy integration and the sustainable development duty with the established model of independent economic regulation is questionable. The integration of the three objectives of sustainable development—the economic, environmental and social—appears to conflict with independent functional specialism. Although a ‘top-down’ form of policy integration might be compatible, it is a limited form of policy integration which does not extend to all stages of the public policy process (Lafferty and Hovden, 2003) and its effectiveness is questionable. There are clear problems of indivisibility of economic, environmental and social matters at technical levels and information asymmetry (between government and regulator) which militate against relying solely on top-down policy integration. A ‘revised standard’ model of economic regulation enables more comprehensive and effective policy integration while retaining the benefits of independent functional specialism. While not extending the decision making powers of the regulator, the model envisages increasing the area of policy interest by explicitly addressing issues of policy integration. Empirical evidence shows that there are many connections, tensions and conflicts between different objectives which manifest themselves at technical levels, and regulators should be alert to them. When outside their decision powers or resource scope the onus is on regulators to engage with external organisations, notably the government, other public bodies and civil society organisations. Government should also welcome and encourage such engagement. Action by the regulator could include more advice and debate in the public domain, scenario planning to assist government policy development, and public communication and education. It is particularly the need for vertical (macro-micro) and horizontal (economic, social and environmental) policy integration which suggests this conclusion. The new duty of sustainable development, viewed through the prism of this revised model, appears to be more compatible with independent regulators. It is crucial that the different roles and responsibilities are clearly specified. The benefits of functional specialisation can be maintained by clearly distinguishing the core functional responsibilities of the regulators from the non-core activities associated with policy integration. The terms ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ do not imply the former should be prioritised over the latter: they imply the two activities are different in kind, but equally important for the effective and legitimate functioning of economic regulation within the regulatory state. Although the model represents some aspects of actual practice in Britain, embedding it requires the ideas to be more formally and thoroughly institutionalised and this is not a straightforward task. Organisational decision rules and procedures, e.g. regulatory impact assessments, can aid institutionalisation (6 et al., 2002, pp. 213–233) and the statutory duty of sustainable development on regulators is one such decision rule which has contributed to institutionalising the model. The duty has triggered an increase in formal activity on sustainable development and more integrated action, for example, the rail, energy and water regulators have all initiated a sustainable development programme and in 2006 published sustainable development reports (ORR, 2006 and OFWAT, 2006 Ofgem, 2006a; Bartle and Vass, 2006). There is more explicit recognition of the need to make trade-offs between different objectives and imperatives, such as competition and lower prices versus the reduction of climate change gas emissions, particularly in the case of the energy regulator. The statutory duty should be augmented by high level cross-governmental commitment to the model and the cross-cutting nature of sustainable development provides a rationale to do so. Much more explicit recognition of a more integrated operational role for regulators is required by the government in sustainable development strategies and action plans. It is noticeable, for example, that the government's top level sustainable development strategy (‘Securing the Future’, HM Government, 2005) says nothing about the role of economic regulators, though some economic regulators have drawn on its principles in developing their own sustainable development strategy (e.g. Ofwat, 2006). Also the departmental action plans (DfT, DTI, Defra), while covering matters directly relevant to the regulators, are almost silent on their expected response. There are precedents for institutionalising regulatory principles and processes across government which could be drawn upon. The regulatory impact assessment, for example, has become embedded, albeit in very different ways, across many OECD countries (Radaelli, 2005). In Britain the Cabinet Office and the Better Regulation Commission (BRC) have played key roles in embedding regulatory principles across government and should play central roles in facilitating the more integrated model of regulation compatible with sustainable development which we propose in this paper. Established principles of good regulation can play a role. Across the regulated sectors it is crucial that a whole of government institution, such as the BRC, fosters an iterative policy development environment in which regulators are more clearly a part of a greater whole. The need for an effective combination of specialisation and integration is thus central to the modern regulatory state. Positive lessons on this can be learned from modern techniques of systems engineering and management. These draw on the advantages of concentrated focus on discrete tasks and subsystems while bringing the parts together effectively to ensure they work as a whole. Systems engineering stresses the importance of whole system qualities, properties, behaviours and performance while retaining the benefits of specialisation by the component parts (INCOSE, 2007). Like the practice of modern public administration the process is iterative and parallel and not sequential and linear. The interactions involved in the parallel and iterative process must be managed to create an effectively working whole. There are many parallels with the roles of independent regulators in public administration. The need for discretely defined tasks and subsystems is clear, as is the need for independent core tasks of economic regulators. At the same time the need for component parts to interact and integrate into a whole is essential, just as the economic regulators must be part of the whole regulatory state and system of public administration. All of this implies a more integrated regulatory state: a governance system encompassing the economic regulators which enables the achievement of integrated policy objectives and sustainable development through an effective policy management system. The need for clearly specified roles and responsibilities raises questions about the overall design and management of the regulatory state and how effective processes of accountability are realised. These are important questions, full examination of which requires further academic debate.