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Nick Manning's blog

Beyond romance and nostalgia: A clear-eyed view of long term career-based incentives in the public sector

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Teacher and studentsAs we argued in the previous post, the evidence on performance-related pay (PRP) is limited but generally supportive.   However, the evidence base for, or against, PRP is distinctively weak in relation to core civil service jobs outside of the OECD.   The conclusion of our recent report1 urges cautious experimentation, breaking out of the evidence-free certainties which have driven so many donor recommendations for reform. 

In some cases a more detailed empirical look will likely show that long term career-based incentives provide a better alternative to the short term motivation provided by PRP.  In complex public sector environments, with complex and occasionally contradictory objectives and multiple principals, there are arguments that incentives for performance should rely on information which is hard to game as it emerges over the longer term.2

Performance-related pay in the public sector: Experimentation with humility is an appropriate stance, given the state of the evidence

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Pay Flexibility book coverA new publication on Pay Flexibility and Government Performance[1] finds that, in this area as in so many aspects of public sector management, practitioners are hampered by a lack of high quality evidence, particularly for PRP in core administrative public sector jobs.  The publication draws on a two sets of data: a review of the literature on Performance-Related Pay in the Public Sector[2] which disaggregates the available evidence by the different public sector contexts, the different types of public sector jobs, the quality of the empirical study, and the economic context; and case studies of PRP in emerging market and OECD countries, which included large perception surveys of government officials.

A related article in the World Bank Research Observer notes that this has not limited the remarkable certainty which opponents and proponents of PRP adopt concerning recommendations for reform.  Opponents march behind populist banners such as that provided by Pink[3], appealing to the idea that monetary and other extrinsic incentives are both counterproductive (because they frequently undermine intrinsic incentives) and unnecessary (because intrinsic incentives can be harnessed and used to maximize individual productivity).

How can we measure state capacity? Do you start upstream or downstream?

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About a year ago, Frank Fukuyama released an article entitled “What is governance?” in the Governance journal that became an “instant classic” in the field. Within a month it had elicited over 15 responses from prominent scholars on the Governance blog, not to mention commentary posted elsewhere—including this blog. It already has over 40 google citations, including articles in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. And a month ago, Governance journal published two more commentaries on Fukuyama’s original article (by Robert Rotberg and Craig Boardman), reinvigorating the debate.

Government choice and donor competition - a catalyst for doing development differently?

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The Aid Transparency Initiatives and the focus on the use of country systems, emphasized in the Paris Declaration, encourage donors to publish what they fund and to use existing country public financial management systems. However, this focus on the how of development assistance somewhat distracts from the what. The bigger question really is why donors and governments focus on those particular areas and why those donors are the right partners to begin with.

 

The World Bank and Public Sector Management: Taking stock

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In the two weeks that the draft PSM Approach for 2010-2020 has been published on this blog for consultation, many experts and colleagues have taken the time and trouble to offer comments. These comments have enriched the debate and, plus or minus a few contradictions, offer some very clear ways forward.

The World Bank and Public Sector Management: Where do you come out?

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The World Bank is updating its approach to public sector management. The aim is better World Bank support for governments seeking to improve public sector results: results needed for citizens' today through improved health, education, agriculture and transport services; and the less obvious but equally critical results such as fiscal stability which maximize the prospects that those results will still be delivered tomorrow.