Countries and sectors

Regarding the distribution of national regulatory agencies by countries in 2010, there is no country having a separate agency for each of the 17 sectors considered in our sample. A large number of countries have established a total of six to seven agencies, and in fact, very few countries

Percentage of regulatory agencies having particular accountability mechanisms

Figure 2.1 Percentage of regulatory agencies having particular accountability mechanisms

The 'Accountability Cube'

Figure 2.2 The 'Accountability Cube'

Note: Percentage of the total number of agencies.

have more than ten agencies. Though infrequent, there are countries having two or more agencies to regulate a single policy sector. Countries displaying a smaller number of agencies are quite common, even if most of the selected countries have created regulatory agencies (115). We have not identified any country without a single regulatory agency.

Looking only at the number of institutions formally created may be misleading in terms of the actual coverage of agencies across different sectors, as these can be associated with more than one sector. A sector analysis needs to complement this to assess the existence of multisector agencies - a growing phenomenon - effectively (Jordana and Levi-Faur 2010). Our database findings indicate that in 2010, 67 per cent of regulatory institutions were responsible for a single sector, while 23 per cent held responsibility for two different sectors, 6 per cent were responsible for three sectors and a remaining 4 per cent were in charge of four or more sectors (up to six). This means that of 1,955 'spaces' of country-sector regulation (115 countries*17 sectors), 1,114 were covered by autonomous agencies. This represents slightly more than 60 per cent of the cases, and it is a clear indication of the importance of this institutional model across different sectors where regulatory instruments predominate in the policymaking process.

The distribution of agencies across sectors is also uneven (Figure 2.3). While central banks - and to a lesser extent telecommunications

Distribution of agencies across policy sectors

Figure 2.3 Distribution of agencies across policy sectors

Note: Bar plot of agency coverage by sector. Bars represent total number of countries having an agency in each of the sectors.

regulatory agencies - are present in almost all selected countries, other agencies are much less common. For example, regulatory agencies in the areas of work safety, health services or environment are only present in about 25 per cent of the selected countries. This does not mean that there are no regulatory agencies in these policy fields in all the other countries. However, it shows that the dominant institutional form is one of a separate agency, within the ministry and following a rather hierarchical structure. Other sectors show a more mixed pattern. For example, agencies in sectors such as pharmaceuticals or competition policy are in place in about half of the countries considered.

In an attempt to clarify our analysis, we divided the 16 regulatory sectors into four large regulatory areas (with the exception of central banks) as detailed below. First, the economic regulatory area includes competition, electricity, gas, postal services, telecommunications and water. Second, the social regulatory area comprises health services, pensions and work safety. Third, the financial regulatory area brings together securities and exchange, insurance and financial services. Finally, the risk regulatory area comprises environment, food safety, nuclear safety and pharmaceuticals.

Regarding the distribution of regulatory agencies according to the different territories and administrative traditions, we cluster the 115 countries in our dataset into five large groups: European, Latin American, post-colonial, East Asian and Anglo-American. This is a very simple classification grouping of countries established upon main conventions in the academic literature and some key criteria (see Bianculli et al. 2013). Clearly, the various groups comprise a different number of countries, the post-colonial being the largest one.

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