Today marks the conclusion of the final meeting of the Global Thematic Consultation on Governance and the Post-2015 Development Framework, held in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Public Sector Management
After a year of intensive consultation among development partners and with technical experts within the World Bank, I am pleased to announce that the World Bank Approach to Public Sector Management (2011-2020) has been agreed by the Public Sector Governance Board (the internal body that maintains professional standards on PSM and governance work within the Bank).
We know very little about governments’ willingness to take risks. Technologies to enhance public sector performance are widely known and available nowadays, but we still can't predict when governments are likely to take risks in the implementation of complex public sector reforms.
Haven’t we been here before? Getting budgets to more perfectly reflect the policy priorities of government has long been the holy grail of budgeting in the public sector, but the reality of government budgeting is messy compromise. If the history of various countries efforts to promote policy coherence shows one thing clearly it is that the budget is the wrong tool to achieve this. Why is this and how can governments achieve greater coherence in support of higher level policy goals?
Is the timing ripe for President Obama and the U.S. Congress to begin making spending decisions based on what they wanted to achieve rather than on individual agencies and programs? That’s the premise of portfolio budgeting.
The quality and availability of policy advice to state sector decision makers impacts considerably on the effectiveness of the state at any level of development. This has often been downplayed in global discussion of Public Sector Management where the emphasis has been understandably on service delivery and improved governance. The money spent on policy advice is small in relation to any state budget but it is high powered money if it is improving the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery.
There is something elusive about the workings of government. “We have virtually no adequate bureaucratic theory that can help us deal with the fundamental structural problems that exist with respect to the public sector. ” One might be forgiven for assuming this statement was written recently. Quite the contrary, this was E A Brett, expressing in 1986 what seems to be a perennial concern of public sector management.
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.
My thinking has been focused on the developed world, not at all on developing countries. However, when Nick Manning invited us to participate in the World Bank’s consultation exercise it did occur to me that this might nevertheless make useful background. Some of the observations apply even more to many developing countries than to the developed world.
Perched on top a 60 meter column in a bustling square on the waterfront of Barcelona sits a magnificent statue of Christopher Columbus. With one hand clutching a map and the other pointing towards the horizon, the statue is the perfect image of a great explorer leading his fleet to the new world. History has been kind to Columbus and has bestowed on him the credit of discovering the new world.