Digital tools for regulatory reform in Mexico

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Did you know that Mexico has a law that allows citizens to be involved in approving new regulations and, at the same time, helps reduce the costs of drafting regulatory proposals?

Regulations affect everyone's life, so it is important that governments and citizens have a chance to inspect them before they are officially published . Given this scenario, the World Bank, in collaboration with Mexico’s National Commission for Regulatory Improvement (CONAMER), designed a digital platform to enable efficient communication between the regulatory reform authorities, the “regulated entities” seeking to publish a regulation, and ordinary citizens themselves , by encouraging the use of regulatory improvement tools, including the Ex Ante Regulatory Impact Analysis (Ex ante RIA) digital platform.

The evaluation provided by the regulatory improvement agency, together with the observations collected via the public consultation process employing the Ex ante RIA platform, can lead to several specific benefits such as: modifications that upgrade the regulatory proposals; cost-benefit calculations that are generated by these changes; avoidance of the duplication of existing regulations and procedures; and, finally, opportunities to consider alternative regulations. Furthermore, the use of the Ex ante RIA platform helps to prevent arbitrary approaches to establishing new procedures, simplifies legally demanded procedures for approving regulations, strengthens the public-private dialogue during the drafting of laws and regulations, and inter alia makes the entire regulatory improvement procedure more transparent.

Ex ante RIA in practice

One example of the beneficial impact of the Ex ante RIA tool was the outcome of the proposal in 2019 to amend an Official Mexican Standard on labeling for prepackaged food and non-alcoholic beverages which would enable consumers to identify products with ingredients that pose health risks if certain quantities are consumed. The initiative generated considerable controversy since it might have impacted people’s consumption trends as well as threatened producers/manufacturers of pre-packaged foods and beverages with potentially higher costs. A balance was therefore needed between technical considerations, consumer preferences, and business interests.

In this case, a total of 792 comments were received from members of the public, including from chambers of commerce and industry, academic institutions, companies, and individuals. The input was used for example to refine the technical nutritional definitions on labels and to bring the proposal more into line with other Mexican and international regulations. The feedback also helped mitigate economic, environmental, and health impacts by not obliging companies potentially affected by the new regulations to remove their present products from the shelves immediately, which gave them time to introduce labeling only on their newer products.

When this particular proposal was being assessed, CONAMER requested that the probable higher costs arising from adjustments in food and beverage advertising and industry trademark matters, should be considered and that other regulations be streamlined to compensate for the various costs falling on the private sector due to the proposal. 

Ex ante RIA at a national level

Despite the positive impact of the Ex ante RIA tool, a diagnosis conducted by the World Bank in 2021 found that a third of the new regulations issued in Mexico still fail to comply with all the provisions required by the General Law on Regulatory Improvement.

Moreover, although at the federal level the Ex ante RIA tool has been consistently used, there is no evidence in seventeen states of it being used. In other words, the application of the tool is sporadic and still not widespread enough at the subnational level. For example, the state of Morelos conducted 1184 Ex ante RIA procedures in 2018 - 2020, while Sinaloa conducted only three, and other states such as Chiapas made no use of the tool at all.

To ensure its use at the state level, the World Bank is supporting the implementation of the Ex ante RIA digital tool through a pilot program in the states of Jalisco and Chiapas and developing support and training materials for all users of the tool.

Five lessons following the process of development and implementation of the Ex ante RIA tool and the public consultation processes :

  1.   Ensure compliance in each jurisdiction with the legal obligation to apply the Ex ante RIA tool before the publication of regulations.
  2.   Need to ensure human and material resources for the appropriate agency to be able to use this regulatory improvement tool.
  3.   Design and implement training programs for the employees of the regulatory improvement authorities and the regulated entities on the use of the Ex ante RIA. 
  4.   Establish mechanisms for monitoring, evaluation, and continuous improvement of the Ex ante RIA tool.
  5.   Implement regular publicity campaigns to encourage people to use the public consultation website and to explain the benefits of the tool.

Mexico has a long tradition and successful examples of regulatory reform policies at the federal level. Mexico has also pioneered the use of digital platforms such as Ex ante RIA . State and municipal governments can benefit from the use of these new technologies not only to improve the preparation and implementation of their regulations, but also to increase involvement in the process by ordinary citizens and in this way ensure that regulatory changes are effective, transparent, and inclusive.


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