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The Challenge of Public Sector Reform in EC Accession Countries: Reflections from the Baltics

C Jacobs (2003)
11 pages (30KB)

How can governance be transformed from a means of command and control into a democratic process? How can an effective balance be achieved between State, private sector and community? This study from the British Council considers the necessary conditions for public administration reform (PAR) in the Baltic states, acknowledging the constraints that face accession countries as they attempt to modernise their civil service.

PAR is a long-term process that requires a degree of stability to consolidate improvements. In the Baltic states, PAR has tended to be piecemeal due to the lack of basic concepts, structures and systems. The experience of these countries shows that organisational change, in itself, is not enough to result in institutional reform but is a valuable starting point, at least in the state sector.

Whereas there is no single model for the evolution of a successful public administration, change is considerably helped if the basic building bricks are in place at the beginning. Overall, the relationship between the three key components for PAR reform, policy/strategy, public expenditure reform and human resource issues, is highly inter-dependent. The absence of influence from citizens or users of services, who pressure governments to make reform, is a serious weakness. However, this will improve when the three countries join the EU in 2004. New mixes of organisations, conventions, policies, practices and systems will encourage dissemination of normative institutions, such as NGOs and consumer groups.

Systemic change can only be achieved with a strong central government mandate backed up by sufficient funds. For appreciative change to occur:

  • The government needs to commit its own resources particularly in the recruitment and training of specialists to form part of a task force deployed to different ministries as the process is rolled out.
  • Senior managers in government need to be included to help set priorities over training for civil servants.
  • Skilled and motivated staff is required.
  • Changes in areas like budget management are essential. Changes in areas such as human resources and training, as provided by the schools or institutes of public administration, are not sustainable on their own.
  • The reform of systems is crucial in providing a framework for trained personnel to be effective.

Perhaps the best case for more open and accountable government, staffed by competent professionals, is that it will ultimately lead to improved and better public access to services. But neither a change in a system, nor a legislative or structural answer, is sufficient on its own.

  • An effective recruitment and performance management system, combined with adequate pay, are important factors.
  • There is a pressing need to remove responsibility for all policy design from the senior and most politicised positions in the civil service.
  • A readiness to write policy and take initiative is part of the wider reform of mind-set which needs to go hand in hand with both system and people reform.
  • Policy formulation and implementation are equally significant.
  • Technical assistance should be provided to governments to improve this process and move away from a legalistic approach.

Source: Jacobs, C., 2003, 'The Challenge of Public Sector Reform in EC Accession Countries: Reflections from the Baltics', paper presented at the DSA conference, Glasgow 2003

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