Exporting new public management: performance agreements in a Pacific microstate

Michael O'Donnell (School of Business and Information Management, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
Mark Turner (School of Business and Government, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Publication date: 1 December 2005



The purpose of this article is to explore the export of new public management (NPM) to developing countries and to describe and evaluate the introduction of these initiatives in very different environments from their origins.


The article traces the introduction of performance agreements into the public service of Vanuatu. Performance agreements are identified as an initiative typically promoted by NPM. The Vanuatu case is set within a review of the origin, use and record of performance agreements in countries such as Australia, the UK and the USA.


The adoption of performance agreements has been slow and has enjoyed limited success. Among the difficulties encountered are suspicion, lack of incentives, an unreceptive environment, and possible identification as being donor‐driven. It is difficult to see performance agreements in their current form making an impact on performance improvement in the Vanuatu public service.

Practical implications

NPM initiatives must be carefully considered before being transferred to other countries. They may offer benefits but what has worked in one environment will often need considerable modification, certain preconditions and lengthy lead‐in time to be effective in another environment.


There are few case studies of attempts to transfer NPM‐style reforms to developing countries and none on performance agreements, yet many countries in the Pacific and elsewhere are becoming interested in this mode of performance management. This case study helps to fill this gap through description and analysis of the Vanuatu experience and provides practical lessons for others considering policy transfer of NPM initiatives such as performance agreements.



O'Donnell, M. and Turner, M. (2005), "Exporting new public management: performance agreements in a Pacific microstate", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 18 No. 7, pp. 615-628. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513550510624077

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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