The Many Faces of Public Management Reform in the Asia-Pacific Region: Volume 18


Table of contents

(18 chapters)
Content available

During the last decade, globalization and democratization have been the major forces that helped transform the structures, functions and processes of Asian public sectors. These transformation efforts of Asian countries vary considerably depending on local context, and have met with different degrees of success. Some countries experienced smooth transformations. For others, the reform process has been more volatile. These issues were explored at a conference 7–9 July 2008 in Bangkok, Thailand, hosted by the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, and co-sponsored by the International Public Management Network, the Asia-Pacific Governance Institute, and Thailand Democracy Watch. This book presents some of the works contributed by participating scholars and practitioners at the conference. The contents fall into three categories: corruption and anti-corruption initiatives, public financial management (PFM) and public management reforms with emphasis on performance and results.

Four decades ago, the Swedish economist, Gunnar Myrdal (1970, p. 230) attributed the paucity of research on corruption in South Asia to the research taboo on this topic. Fortunately, this taboo has been gradually eroded since the 1990s as reflected in the tremendous amount of research that has been done on corruption in the Asia-Pacific countries. Corruption has emerged in the 1990s as “a truly global political issue eliciting a global political response” (Glynn, Kobrin, & Naim, 1997, p. 7). Indeed, the globalization of corruption has given rise to an overriding concern with how to combat corruption in many countries among their governments and many international agencies. Consequently, many international organizations like the Asian Development Bank, Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management, Eastern Regional Organization for Public Administration, International Institute for Administrative Sciences, Organization of American States, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Transparency International, United Nations Development Programme, World Bank, and World Economic Forum have organized numerous conferences, symposia and workshops on various aspects of corruption.

One cannot mandate honesty.– Veerappa Moily, Chair,Second Administrative Reforms Commission, 2007India did not invent corruption, but it seems to excel in it. Transparency International, (TI) in its September 2007 Corruption Perception Index, placed India 72nd (tying with China and Brazil) with its neighbors Sri Lanka at 94th, Pakistan 138th, and Bangladesh 162nd as among the most corrupt of the 180 nations it surveyed. Denmark, Finland, and New Zealand stood at the top as the least corrupt, while Mynamar and Somalia are ranked at the bottom as the most corrupt. In 2008, India was ranked at 74th (Transparency International, 2007, 2008). In its 2005 study, TI found that as many as 62% of Indians believe corruption is real and in fact had first hand experience of paying bribes (Transparency International, 2005). Three-fourths in the survey also believe that the level of corruption in public services has only increased during 2004–2005. It is estimated that a total of about $5 billion are paid annually as bribes. The police are ranked as the most corrupt, followed by lower judiciary and Land Administration. Yet Suresh Pachauri, the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Government of India, declared: “Government is fully committed to implement its policy of zero tolerance against corruption. It is moving progressively to eradicate corruption by improving transparency and accountability” (Pachauri, 2008). This is a rather sorry state for a country known as the largest working democracy.

In this chapter, the words “big businessmen at the helm” refers to the situation when wealthy and prominent businessmen become prime ministers, ministers, and hold other key political positions in government. Many high political positions in governments around the world are held by big businessmen-turned-politicians. For them the distinction between business and government is blurred and maybe useless. The typical business lobbyists have conquered government. We can no longer expect government to act in the public interests when dealing with powerful companies belonging to government politicians. When big businessmen are at the helm of government, combating corruption becomes an elephantine task.

An important aspect of good governance is a well-managed government procurement system. This has a direct impact on the extent and quality of a country's infrastructure and the effectiveness of its public services. Two key principles underpin a well-managed procurement system: value for money from the goods, services, and public works, which are procured, and fair access to procurement opportunities. Arguably, competition and transparency in the procurement process are necessary conditions for both. Yet despite this, most of the states of Southeast Asia have been reluctant to create an openly competitive and transparent government procurement system. This has been in part reflected in the fact that none them have become signatories to the WTO's Government Procurement Agreement of 1994 with the notable exception of Singapore. This Agreement seeks to promote international access to the government procurement market in goods, services, and public works by mandating open competition and transparent procedures.

This chapter evaluates the effectiveness of the implementation or enforcement of the Anticorruption Law 1971 of the authoritarian New Order regime in combating corruption in the public sector. Thus, the central research question that will be investigated and answered in this chapter is to what extent and for what reasons had the implementation or enforcement of the Anticorruption Law 1971 failed or been ineffective, to some degree, in achieving its legally mandated objective?

In recent years, the World Bank has channeled up to one-sixth of its lending and advisory support to reform of central governments. A recent evaluation tried to understand what was working, what needs to be improved, and what needs to be added or discontinued. The evaluation looked at four key central government tasks: public financial management and procurement (PFMP) reform, administration and civil service reform (ACS), tax administration reform, and combating corruption. This chapter looks at the first of these tasks.

The advice provided by the World Bank on improving public financial management and procurement is influenced by debates on theory and practice in developed and developing countries. This chapter touches on some of the highlights of these debates, drawing from indicative literature mainly since 1990 from scholars and practitioners. The second part of the chapter discusses examples of Bank support for reform of budget planning and execution, financial management, and procurement, looking at the Bank's diagnostic work, design, and implementation of project support. It also assesses evidence of outcomes and attribution, and ends with questions for further research.

By all accounts, Cambodia has been a postconflict country for much of the last 15 years, stretching as far back at 1991, when the Paris Peace Accords proclaimed a truce between the Vietnamese-backed government and the Khmer Rouge. Subsequent attempts to put in place the desired political and governmental structures remained furtive in the midst of ongoing politicomilitary violence, which only subsided definitively in 1997. Many important institutions of governance and public sector management, destroyed by the ultra-radical Khmer Rouge regime, were only just starting to be rebuilt as recently as 2002.

Indonesia is an ethnically diverse nation with large interregional poverty differences and variations in regional population density.1 However, under Suharto's highly centralized “New Order” regime, local service delivery agencies were administrative instruments of remote national ministries and unresponsive to the individual priorities and problems of varied local communities. The abrupt nature of the 2001 decentralization has been interpreted by some as an insurance policy against fragmentation following the disturbances at the close of the highly centralized Suharto era.2

In the United States, the 1993 Government Performance and Result Act (GPRA) has increased public demand for governments not only to produce and deliver public goods and services, but also to demonstrate program effectiveness, which is the ultimate goal of a public program's existence, mission, and spending. This public management approach parallels the results-oriented management, which aims to strengthen organizational effectiveness and emphasize the need to integrate all major activities and functions, an activity that will direct them toward advancing organization-wide strategic goals or fundamental policy agendas (Kettl, 1997). Managers use program outputs and outcomes as implementation benchmarks to identify implementation means or directions (Kettl, 1997). By reporting performance measurement results to the public and policy makers, public managers are held accountable for the tax-dollars spent to produce and deliver public services in the most efficient and effective way (Aristigueta, 2007). Performance measurement results, especially those related to outcome achievement, are partially useful in budget allocation from the perspective that the tax-dollars spent are tied to desirable outcomes rather than to program input costs that may or may not correspond with public desires (DuPont-Morales & Harris, 1994).

In this chapter, we describe the formal features of recent reforms in Thailand's public administration. While it remains premature to attempt definitive assessments of the impact of those reforms, we deduce grounds for concern. In particular, we suggest that successful public management reforms must rest on a reasonable degree of congruence between the reforms' implicit assumptions on the one hand and Thai political and social conditions on the other. And we suggest that such a match is not evident in the case of Thailand's most recent administrative reforms.

Government service delivery is undergoing change as a result of innovations in information technology (IT). Scholars and practitioners have paid attention to electronic-government (e-government) as a strategic tool for delivering services through the Internet and thus enhancing service quality, as well as streamlining internal operations (Council for Excellence in Government [CEG], 2000; Center for Technology in Government, 1999; Ho, 2002; Norris & Moon, 2005; West, 2004). Many local governments have also initiated e-government development and taken advantage of internet-based applications to facilitate community development and communication with constituents (Benjamin, 2001; Modesitt, 2002), as well as to provide online application services (Ho, 2002; Norris & Moon, 2005). E-government brings with it the potential for greater cost-efficiency, enhanced citizen involvement, improved service quality, and increased transparency. Although e-government has the potential to provide many benefits, little research has been conducted on e-government performance and the influence of public management on e-government performance in local government.

Cambodia is embarking on a major programme of decentralisation and deconcentration (D&D) reforms, which have the potential to transform the way the country is governed and to build greater accountability into its governmental system. The D&D reforms promise to transfer much greater powers and capabilities to province and district level administrations. Provincial public servants will have the responsibility to deliver most services and to be accountable to elected councils. Potentially, they will move government closer to the people in important ways. However, if they are to do this responsively and accountably, a great deal will have to change in the ways that public administration – and especially human resource management (HRM) in the civil service – is structured and operated.

Governments and other organizations are confronted with more frequent and devastating crises and disasters as the environment within which they operate becomes more complex and tumultuous (Hwang & Lichtenthal, 2000; Rosenthal & Kouzmin, 1997). Recent catastrophic events, such as the tsunami in Southeast Asia and Hurricane Katrina in the United States, have heightened interest in efforts to plan for and resolve these crises. However, despite the far-reaching disruptions caused by these crises, the literature on the topic of crisis impacts has hitherto been relatively scant, and most studies are not empirical (Pelling, Ozerdem, & Barakat, 2002).

Publication date
Book series
Research in Public Policy Analysis and Management
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN