A regulatory system has to be understood from the point of view of what it hopes to accomplish. Regulation without intention is meaningless, and cannot be described as anything but a deadweight on society. Economic regulation is of course a multifaceted concept, and different contexts will demand different interventions.
In May this year, the speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, chided its members for the poor quality of legislation that it was approving. Such measures would be returned for correction, either by the National Council of Provinces or after having been found in court to be unconstitutional. Rightly, he reminded the Assembly’s members that they had an obligation to ensure that the legislation processed was both in line with the country’s constitution, and processed with an appropriately diligent and professional understanding of the matters at stake. Failure to do so, he suggested, would compromise the country’s most vulnerable.
Business regulation, and small business regulation in particular, suffers from a case of ambiguous motivation. In some cases, it is not clear what considerations lie behind substantive measures. Why would they be desirable or necessary?
Measures under consideration illustrate this point well. A strong feature of the draft Business Registration Bill was to be the formalization of unregistered and informal enterprises. At first glance, this seems understandable – why should anyone object to bringing businesses operating semi-illegally into the legislative net, not least regarding tax obligations? But the bill demands more……..