The term ‘red tape’ refers to the excessively lengthy and cumbersome government or formal procedures and norms an individual or business must get through to seek bureaucratic approval for specific tasks. These are those regulations and formalities that present too many hurdles or exhaust more time than required. For instance, if it takes too long or there are too many obstacles for setting up business in a country, it means there’s excessive red tape. Similarly, public shareholders’ difficulties to meet or take action against company board of directors or CEO also indicates red tape prominence.

Red tape isn’t just connected to business. The existence of red tape often discourages people from pursuing certain initiatives, since they fear things would take too much of their time. On the business front, repetitive and complex red tape only adds to business costs, reduces job opportunities, increases services and goods costs, etc.  

The phrase “red tape” stems from the red-hued ribbon used to tie government or important files. These formal requirements are in place so that there’s no easy access to the top authority (for instance, government officials or top company management). The lack of instant or easy reach means the superior bodies or authorities don’t end up with a pile of petty tasks or complaints to address each day. 

If the initiating party is willing to wait and undergo all red tape complexities, it implies he/she is serious about his case and the subject-matter is worth the highest authority’s attention. Conversely, if the subject in contention doesn’t have enough mettle or is a fairly trivial petition, it’ll get quashed or addressed mid-way by subordinates.