Regulatory changes come after plenty of deliberation. That doesn’t mean regulatory change management challenges in the relatively briefer periods of – say, the grip of the current COVID-19 pandemic – drive any less change. Good corporate governance and regulatory changes from government and allied administration bodies meet and work hand-in-hand to serve the people of an organization and the larger business community. This is a social cause supported by thorough risk analysis.
Further to the spread of COVID-19 strain of virus among the major commercial and business centers in India, the country went into lockdown. Phased extension of the said lockdown followed by measured relaxations have not reduced the grip of the coronavirus on India. The central government and state governments have come together proactively to ensure business operations do not reach a standstill despite the highly contagious nature of the virus. Regulatory changes span across a range of fields from healthcare to food and drug administration, cross-country transport, and secretarial and tax functions.
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Movement of goods and raw materials, which is one of the major functions impacting manufacturing, went askew during the lockdown. While the central government urged states and union territories to put forward their own guidelines and advisories on vehicle movement, the transit of vehicles, issuance of passes, and logistical hold-ups among business outfits has not been seamless. The availability of regulatory documents, supporting kits comprising sanitizers, and personal protection items are made available by all the states in India. To mention a few, Kerala and Haryana advocated hand sanitizers, the use of protective masks, and other gear.
The PM CARES fund was launched amid crisis-response teams striving to create awareness among all classes of earners of the imminent need to donate and offer monetary assistance to less fortunate sections of the society. India got its covid-19 dashboard and regulatory changes encourage transparency of reporting so that businesses and citizens alike know exactly where to look for reliable information. Such crucial, timely changes are impossible without ample support from compliance officers who ensure quality in the reportage that reaches the common citizen.
In this way, regulatory changes have become the instrument by which businesses find less intrusive, more favorable conditions for doing business in India. Steps are already underway to bring back jobs for temporary and migrant workers. Laid-off employees in IT and manufacturing can register on new-age AI-powered recruitment platforms and connect with reliable employers as they adjust to the new normal of cross-training and developing new job-skills by doing courses online. Grass-root level workers who see a manual renewal of contracts stand as the ones with the most to lose since regulation consultants don’t check the renewal of their tenures with fair consideration of the time lost due to lockdown.
The biggest regulatory changes have come in the Labor, Taxation and Finance, and Environment, Health and Safety sectors. The changes in regulatory requirements range from the number of forms to be filled, last dates and extensions, and ease of compliance requirements. This way, invoicing, secretarial briefs, and meeting of regulatory norms become simpler for all scales of business.
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Easing up of regulatory changes was carried out by the state governments of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Karnataka among others. Gujarat followed suit soon, and several deadlines for project completion and tenders on distribution licenses have been extended. Maharashtra, Delhi, and Andhra Pradesh are among the states with the biggest numbers of changes in regulatory compliance. A time-bound shift in interest rates and penalty dates have been relaxed to make allowances for the shortfall of liquidity. Simultaneously, liquidity is being pumped back into circulation. A moratorium of three months on repayment comes as some relief for borrowers in the BFSI sector.
Regulatory changes seek to benefit the largest possible group of affected business people and the general citizenry. But on paper, the changes look meager. For this reason, changes in regulation policies can appear to be of little value. But when rolled out effectively, regulatory change management can mean better days for ease of doing business.
Guatam Chikermane and Rishi Agrawal, Regulatory changes in India in the Times of COVID-19: lessons and recommendations, Observer Research Foundation, June 2020