For public officials in charge of managing public institutions, improving public sector performance can look like a daunting task. Where to begin? Is it really possible to overcome a system of inefficiency and ineffectiveness that has persisted for many years? Can one really break through the obstacles that stand in the way of success? And finally, can the public sector really improve the quality of services it delivers?
The World Bank Group Global Knowledge and Research Hub in Malaysia has been at the center of generating insights into these questions. Recently, the Hub issued the first edition of a new global report series on “Improving Public Sector Performance.” The report draws on the Bank’s network of governance specialists across the globe to curate 15 inspiring stories of how reformers are finding new and innovative ways to drive breakthroughs in public sector performance.
The report shows that innovation does not always require state-of-the-art or high-cost technology. On the contrary, many of the innovations use technology in only a supporting capacity. Across a diverse set of low- and middle-income countries, the Bank’s team found five common drivers of success in public sector management reforms:
- Incentives (either individual or institutional)
- Institutional capacity building
This inaugural report aims to inspire public sector practitioners to see what is possible – even in challenging environments -- and to encourage innovative ways to tackle long-standing problems in performance. It shows countries addressing challenges in different function domains: civil service management, public financial management, policy management in the center of government, last-mile service delivery, and even justice services.
If public sector institutions are going to perform better and be more responsive to citizen demands they also need to find effective ways to tame what The Economist traditionally called “Leviathan.” As size and complexity of government functions grow with each generation, ministries and agencies risk becoming more disconnected from citizens, as well as increasingly disconnected from each other. Government departments and agencies are naturally prone to function in silos, and it requires concerted effort to mitigate against duplication of effort, hoarding of information, or working at cross-purposes. The Bank’s report spans the globe to examine why some the approaches to inter-agency and policy coordination are working, and why others are not.
Malaysia sits at an important juncture in its development history. Despite a history of rapid economic growth over the past decades, Malaysia is positioned to do better over the next decade in creating a nation of shared prosperity and social well-being. Experiences from around the world show that public officials are not giving up but are forging new ways to enhance public sector performance. The Malaysian experience should be part of that future tapestry of transforming public sector performance.