Keng Yaik should ensure that his Ministry is the first to introduce the concept of Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA), starting with the  two draft  water legislation on National Water Services Commission and the water services industry


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Parliament, Wednesday): I commend the Energy, Water and Communications Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik for his honesty and courage in admitting his ignorance about RIA or Regulatory Impact Assessment in Parliament yesterday during the winding-up of the debate on the Constitution Amendment Bill 2004. 

He should ensure that his Ministry is the first to introduce the RIA concept in Malaysia, starting with the two draft water legislation on National Water Services Commission and the water services industry to be tabled in the next parliamentary meeting between March 21 to April 28, 2005. 

This is particularly the case as he has visited the United Kingdom to learn from the British experience in the formulation and implementation  of water policy,  informing Parliament yesterday that he would be adopting some of the concepts used by the Office of Water (OFWAT) in the United Kingdom in the federalization of water management and water privatization in Malaysia. 

There are at least three aspects of the British handling of water policy that Malaysia can profitably learn, viz: 

Firstly, the introduction of the RIA concept, which has become an essential part of the policy-making process in the United Kingdom, to assess the impact, in terms of risks, costs and benefits, of any proposed legislation. In addition to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA), the formulation of the national water policy by the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications should be the occasion to introduce the concept of RIAs to inform the policy decision-making process and communicate clearly the objectives, options, costs, benefits and risks of the legislative and regulatory proposals to the public to increase the transparency of the process.

There are three stages to an RIA in the United Kingdom experience:

  • Initial RIA. Carried out at the early policy development stage. This can help identify areas where departments need more information.
  • Partial RIA. This builds on the Initial RIA and should accompany the formal public consultation for the proposal.
  • Final RIA. This builds on the analysis in the Partial RIA, updating it in the light of consultation and further analysis and information. The Final RIA should accompany legislation when presented to Parliament.

This was why I asked Keng Yaik during the winding-up of the debate on the Constitution Amendment Bill yesterday whether he had seen or studied the initial and partial RIAs of the two water bills within the purview of his Ministry, which was met by Keng Yaik’s query as to what is an RIA. 

Secondly, the open, transparent and extensive public consultation process with all stakeholders in the formulation of a national water policy and the relevant water legislation. Although the United Kingdom Water Act 2003 passed both House of Parliament and was given the Royal Assent on 20th November 2003, the whole process of public consultation started in May 1997 with the holding of a Water Summit, followed by a Government White Paper in July 1998, a consultation paper on draft legislation on the Water Bill in November 2000 and a whole series of consultation papers as well as consultations before the final Water Bill was presented to the Houses of Commons and Lords in 2003. 

Although Keng Yaik had been working on the national water blueprint in the past 10 months since taking over the water portfolio after the March 2004 general election, the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications had not issued a single consultation paper to seek public feedback. 

Thirdly, full commitment to give priority to the protection of consumer interests, through the adoption of three measures: 

  • Entrenchment in the water legislation that consumer protection should be the regulators’ prime duty, which should among other things promote water efficiency schemes, provide for compensation for supply interruptions and publish financial and performance information of water companies.
  • Setting up an independent consumer council for water which puts the consumer at the heart of the regulatory process, making it open and accountable; and
  • Establishment of parliamentary select committee on Water.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman