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SLASHING RED TAPE.

Summary: Bahrain should look at what others are doing to really cut "red tape."

If I had to name the most elating yet disappointing promise made by government during my ten years in Bahrain, it is the almost perpetual promise to, "Slash Red Tape."

Filling out unnecessary forms, and then doing it again, waiting in queues once more, that tightening feeling around the throat that accompanies frustration. Cutting red tape? Really? Alas, all too often, no scissors, no scalpel, no real instructions, just jolly fine words - which are usually met with the rolling of eyes.

Heard it all before!

Mind you, it is not just in Bahrain that such claims to, "clean up the bureaucracy," are made. It is an issue commonly associated with all bureaucracies, principally because part of the reason for the existence of government is to 'regulate,' via laws and statutory orders, and to garner information irrespective of whether we think it is necessary, or pertinent!

You know, like those arrival cards that require a list of all the countries you have ever visited or the name of your father's address at your birth. I travelled with a Minister once, who completed all landing cards in micro seconds because apart from passport details, he simply filled out the first thought that came in to his head as invariably, (before electronic passports) the only things checked was name and number. Oh the fun of it all.

The problem with the "Slashing Red Tape" claim is that it is without a substantial 'plan of attack, or even the establishment of a team of "cutters"!

Well, take heart!

The relatively newly arrived Abbott government in Australia, has come to office for a bout of "Spring Cleaning" with a battle plan to rid the country of 8000 unnecessary laws and regulations, saving $A 1 billion annually (BD342 million). It is also planning to cut bureaucratic compliance costs for business and households by $A300 million (BD102 million).

In relative proportional terms given the sizes of the Australian and Bahraini economies, these are savings not to be scoffed at!

They will also put in place a format to ensure there is no 're-growth,' when the cutting has been done.

It may just be a suitable template for a bit of cherry-picking by other governments, who harbour similar 'slashing' philosophies.

It has not however, made an auspicious start, with Australian bureaucrats producing a "rule book," for public servants, designed to keep "red tape down," a book bound with - you guessed it - red tape. Oh yes, they do have a sense of humour, and a healthy sense of irony, those Aussies!

There will be a dedicated red tape website, where business-people and the public can send off their own submissions on perceptions of red tape encumbrances, which presumably will be assessed by a committee, and then sent to Ministers to enact legislation to cut and remove.

All Ministries will in future be required to have a dedicated special unit, which is to look at the regulatory impact provisions of all proposed new laws and all Cabinet submissions must include a Regulatory Impact Statement.

There will be requirements for more timely consultation with the business community and greater transparency and efficiency within the public service, so "ensuring regulation is the last resort [for public servants], not the default option." Moreover, the Australian Government will allocate two days annually, for parliament to repeal laws found to be unnecessary, outdated, or simply "too red tapish."

Wonderful isn't it, the simple term "reform," especially when coupled with the words "de-regulation," oh such a sweet smelling air freshener?

Supposedly it will save the government trunk loads of money, and the public, veritable mountains of frustration. It will also precipitate a real and coordinated plan of action, rather than the usual nebulous blustery call to "slash red tape," without specifically targeting anyone to do the job, plan aschedule, and actually fund the service wide project.

So let's keep a weather eye on developments Down Under and see if there are lessons to be learned from their experiences which Bahrain can draw on to make its own public services more efficient, civil in service, and genuinely helpful to the public, be they citizens, investors or tourists.

The author is a former senior diplomat and political adviser with extensive international experience in strategic and parliamentary affairs, and is currently working in Bahrain.

The problem with the "Slashing Red Tape" claim is that it is without a substantial 'plan of attack, or even the establishment of a team of "cutters"!

Supposedly it will save the government trunk loads of money, and the public, veritable mountains of frustration. It will also precipitate a real and coordinated plan of action, rather than the usual nebulous blustery call to "slash red tape," without specifically targeting anyone to do the job.

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Publication:GulfInsider
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Oct 19, 2014
Words:823
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