The heart of the matter: donors, development assistance, and Public Sector Reform

The heart of the matter: donors, development assistance, and Public Sector Reform

The article looks at the present consensus on Public Sector Reform (PSR), and its effect on development. The concensus claims that PSR will:

  • lead to better delivery of the basic public services that effect living standards of the poor
  • create a climate conducive to private sector development

What works?

  • Strong and constant local leadership is essential for overcoming the political and bureaucratic obstacles that confront a reform program
  • Impetus for reform must come from local stakeholders who are outside the public sector. Organised civil society (e.g. civic associations, users' groups, labour unions, NGOs), the private sector, political parties and other local institutions all have a role to play in pressurising the public sector to do a better job of serving society
  • A strong bond of accountability between citizens and the public sector generates demand for PSR
  • Wide dissemination of information that allows citizens to monitor public service delivery and public expenditure can have a powerful positive impact on the attitudes and behavior of public officials. Experience in developing countries with service-delivery and expenditure-tracking surveys has shown that putting relevant and easily understandable information into the hands of citizens promotes a more accountable and effective public sector. Donors should use their influence to encourage governments to publish timely, complete and accurate information about government operations
  • Public sector organisations with an outcomes-oreinted and "mission-driven" culture appear to have higher levels of performance
  • Providing timely and well-argued policy advice to decision-makers is a core responsibility of the public service. Capacity to fulfill this function is in short supply in many developing countries
  • Reformers should take a more sophisticated approach to downsizing, seeing it as a means to the end of an effective and efficient public sector. This requires a broader frame of reference that includes a view of the appropriate role of government, an appropriate system for managing public-sector performance, and a reformed pay structure conducive to attracting and retaining qualified staff


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