Friday, 7 May 2010

Roger Kerr: Alcohol report fatally flawed

Kerr's comment in today's Otago Daily Times (not online as yet, as best I'm aware) is scathing:
A fundamental government requirement for policy decisions on regulation is a competent regulatory impact statement (RIS). The Treasury, now the lead agency on regulation, met the Law Commission on its review and outlined the Government's regulatory analysis requirements. The commission's July 2009 Issues Paper stated that an RIS would indeed be included in the final report.

We now find that the Law Commission and teh Minister of Justice have agreed that this report will not contain such a statement but one will be prepared by the Ministry of Justice for any Bill that the Minister of Justice introduces.

Lacking an RIS, the report fails to establish that its proposals are in the public interest.
Of course, if the RIS had been outsourced to Marsden Jacob, I'm not sure it much would have helped in establishing whether the proposals actually would have been in the public interest. As we saw in the case of the tobacco excise tax increase, even an RIS that Treasury describes as "not commensurate with the significance of the proposals" wouldn't much stop the government from implementing proposals.

ODT readers looking for my critique of the Marsden Jacob report, noted in Roger Kerr's piece, should look here and here.

Kerr makes a few other rather nice points:
  • Raising the alcohol purchase age to 20 would align New Zealand with only 11 other countries; 81 others have a minimum of 18 while 12 others, including Belgium, Germany, Norway and Spain, set the age at 16. 17 countries have no drinking age at all.
  • "the proposals to ultimately ban all alcohol advertising rely heavily on one anti-alcohol source, and omit its crucial finding that there is a lack of conclusive evidence from the studies of restrictions of alcohol advertising."
  • Paraphrasing a great line from economist Edward Stringham, Kerr writes "Raising excise taxes on everyone to curb abuse by a minority would be like raising petrol tax to prevent some motorists from speeding." I love this analogy.

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