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7.6. Survey responses - value of Internet access to law reform expertise

The following comments relate to interest in the proposed DIALogue e-mail facility for communications between Authorised Users (mainly legislative personnel from DMCs) and international Panelists with experience in particular areas of development law. They are based on responses to the survey of seven countries discussed in Chapter 3.

7.6.1. Use of consultants in the legislative process

In China, most law drafting institutions would consult foreign legal experts in the process of law drafting. This kind of pre-drafting legal consultation may take many forms: hosting of international seminars on concerned legal issue, exchanging views with foreign legal practitioners on different legal perspectives, consulting foreign legal specialists on the pros and cons of a proposed bill, etc. Although it is not a required procedure, most China law drafting institutions would refer to foreign legal consultation when drafting laws. In view of this, the survey respondents agreed that the `DIAL Index' facility would be useful to them. At present, there is no formal procedure that governs the engagement of legal consultants for law drafting and other types of legal work in China.

In Indonesia, few foreign consultants are hired in the drafting of legislation, though there are exceptions such as where foreign aid programs are involved, the Department of Finance's long relationship with Harvard University and Bank Indonesia's with a major US law firm. Indonesian consultants, on the other hand, are used often.

Article 28 of Vietnam's Law on the promulgation of legal instruments provides that a drafting committee can consult legal experts, but neither the Law nor Decree 101 provide details on their engagement. There does not appear to be any standard procedure, so it is not clear how use of the DIALogue facility would (if available) be used by drafting committees. However, foreign experts have been playing a significant role in assisting in the drafting of significant Vietnamese laws, such as the recent banking laws (IMF and World Bank assistance), Commercial Code (UNDP assistance) and Law on Foreign Investment (experts at foreign law firms).

In Pakistan, legal consultants are engaged for drafting and law reform work, but the procedures for doing so are ad hoc, and it is not clear how the use of the DIALogue facility would fit into these procedures.

In Mongolia, there has not been any practice of engaging foreign consultants for drafting of laws. The problems of legal drafting in Mongolia have been analysed extensively in the `Legislative Drafting' section (http://www.asiandevbank.org/law/mongolia/drafting.html) of the Asian Development Bank report Developing Mongolia's Legal Framework - A Needs Analysis. The need for a legislative drafting office and training in legislative drafting was identified.

In India, foreign consultants have been engaged in some significant projects in the last six years, including restructuring of the State Electricity Boards, a report on restructuring Indian industries, and a report on the reforms in the Indian capital market. There is no formal procedure for engaging foreign legal consultants.

In the Philippines there is relatively little use of foreign legal consultants except in areas of international law by the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Labor and Trade.

Areas in which access to expertise is most valued

The comments in Chapter 3 under `Subject areas of most interest' are also relevant to access to law reform experts, as they give some indication of the areas of expertise which would be of most interest. It will probably by necessary for the Bank or the Project DIAL operator to make its own assessments in choosing those subject areas for which Panelists are needed for DIALogue, and to modify this over time in light of feedback via DIALogue.

7.6.2. Interest in the DIALogue facility by the primary audience

The Vietnamese legislative personnel saw the DIALogue facilities as likely to be a useful and efficient way to obtain information, but few would be in a position to pay for use of the facility. The Pakistani respondents had a similar view. Indian personnel saw the opportunity for interaction with their counterparts in other countries (ie other Authorised Users) as attractive, not only the access to experts (`Panelists'), and considered that some low fee structure might be acceptable. For Chinese legislative personnel, this facility was seen as very useful because of the practice of consulting foreign expertise, and there was a willingness to pay some fee for its use.

In contrast, the Indonesian primary audience surveyed had a generally negative reaction to the DIALogue proposal, in the sense that they did not feel that they would use it even if it was free. Our survey assistants suggest that the difficulties of communicating in English via e-mail (which could tend to reduce enquiries to a very general form), and the general lack of ability and willingness to use computers among senior decision-makers, are significant inhibiting factors. This contrasts with the same respondents' strong enthusiasm for the DIAL Index facility.

Philippines respondents were mixed, with most being positive toward the proposed facility but some saying they would not find it useful.

7.6.3. Interest in the DIALogue facility by the secondary audiences

Although access to the DIALogue prototype is largely limited to legislative personnel (the primary audience), comments were sought concerning interest by other audiences.

Indian lawyers involved in corporate law, particularly those with international clients, were seen as likely to be interested in DIALogue as a means of expanding their contacts and expertise so as to better service clients, and would be willing to pay moderate fees once the value of the facility was proven. Access to information about competitive bidding for international legal projects was of particular interest (and is provided in part through LAW-DEV at present).

Pakistani private lawyers, particularly those working in fields with international ramifications (eg intellectual property) expressed interest in access to the facility. Foreign lawyers in Vietnam would be interested in access to DIALogue, but local lawyers would not be. In China, this facility was seen as greatly reducing the time and effort in locating or contacting law specialist in a particular field, and there was a willingness to pay some fee for its use. Philippines respondents were positive, but said they would like to test it before considering payment of fees.

Indonesian private sector lawyers were seen as more likely to use such a facility than their government counterparts (although the English language barrier would still cause problems). Such lawyers are more likely to want advice on specific legal problems than on law reform or drafting issues, but it is quite possible that they would find such a facility valuable to find experts outside the areas of the usual personal contacts or those of any international law firms with which they work.

7.6.4. Willingness to pay for access

In Indonesia, there is little likelihood that existing funding available for consultancy could be used to pay for DIALogue services, even if the facility was regarded as useful (not necessarily the case - see above). In Vietnam and Pakistan, few government lawyers would be likely to be able to pay for use of such a facility. However, respondents in India and China indicated more willingness to pay some reasonable charges.

7.6.5. Conclusions concerning the DIALogue facility

The overall reaction of respondents to the proposed facility was positive, with only Indonesian government respondents being negative in view, but the reaction was not as enthusiastic as toward the other aspects of the proposed DIAL facilities.

Any conclusions must be regarded as tentative, not only because of the limited number of respondents and countries involved, but also because it is unlikely that those who have not yet become familiar with e-mail use, and in particular the use of `list' facilities, can make a realistic assessment of its potential value.

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