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.
Education has long been a focal point of struggle in South Africa: the 1976 Soweto uprising, which set in motion the chain of events that resulted in the end of apartheid, was led by schoolchildren. In the 1980s, the contribution of youngsters to the liberation struggle took a starker turn: ‘No Education before Liberation’ became the watchword of many.
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.
I recently participated in a seminar in Santiago de Chile on ‘Conditional Cash Transfers and Human Rights’. A few years ago I would have wondered what could possibly be the link between the two. Not anymore.
- human development
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.
As coverage of the Arab Street’s awakening continues to dominate headlines, I find myself making further connections between the Middle Eastern, East Asian, and South African experiences. One intriguing common thread pertains to the role of the middle classes.
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.
Public management is a curious mix of uncertainty and dogma. Uncertainty — about how to structure public sector organizations, about how to link the budget to performance, about how to motivate employees — is quite appropriate given the weak theoretical basis and the even weaker empirics, and thus the frequent changes of direction on these topics are hardly surprising.
In my previous blog post, I talked about the political pressure caused by the very large number of unemployed youth in Nigeria. Without wanting to predict the future, I examined how this problem could either pose a systemic threat, or alternatively, create positive pressure on Nigeria’s leaders to start tackling the twin problems of unemployment and social exclusion.