- Doing Business
Private sector regulation in the Commonwealth
Following the liberalisation and privatisation that took centre stage in the 1980s through to the 2000s in the Commonwealth, many governments have introduced agencies tasked with regulating services in liberalised and privatised sectors. The agencies, which operate with varying degrees of independence, are generally tasked with protecting customers from monopoly power, promoting competition, promoting social and macroeconomic objectives and regulating the entry of new players to a sector.
Regulatory agencies often have broad responsibilities mandated by an act of parliament or executive order. A telecoms regulator would for example ensure that customers are not charged exorbitant fees to make phone calls; a financial regulator would, amongst other things, ensure that banks remain solvent to safeguard macroeconomic stability; a competition regulator would ensure larger companies are not involved in unfair practices to protect their monopoly thereby making it impossible for other companies to enter or exist in the market; and a transport regulator could ensure that licensed private train operators have the necessary capacity to meet consumer demand. Other private sector regulators include media commissions, financial market securities regulators, utility regulators, and postal services regulators. Regulators that existed prior to privatisation include civil aviation authorities, central banks and company registration authorities.
Doing business in the Commonwealth
The role of regulation in an economy has been the subject of much international debate, particularly its extent: whether or not too much regulation can stifle growth in the private sector or what exactly too much regulation is. The World Bank and other international financial institutions have been at the forefront of promoting regulatory environments which, as they say, are conducive to the growth of the private sector. Worldwide, three Commonwealth countries rank highly in the World Bank’s 2011 Ease of Doing Business Index: Singapore (number 1), New Zealand (3) and UK (7). Ranking so highly on the index means the regulatory environment in a country is most conducive to the protection of investors, favourable taxation, the enhancement of international trade, the accessibility of credit, and the general starting and operation of a local firm. Five Commonwealth also rank highly on purely how easy it is to start a business: New Zealand (1), Australia (2), Canada (3), Singapore (4) and Rwanda (8).
With the exception of a few small island member states, most countries are subscribing members of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Quality certification to validate ISO standards mainly involves government agencies in developing countries as opposed to a plurality of public and private sector players in developed countries.