The OECD is showing the way to better PSM data

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ImageThere are several issues that I would like to comment on regarding the emerging WBG Public Sector Management (PSM) approach and point out the synergies between the OECD approach and the PSM one.

I am leading the work at the OECD on the Government at Glance publication that collects data and publishes indicators on various aspects of governmental processes and their performance. The second edition of the publication will be released in mid-May 2011 and will contain 58 indicators, covering 42 countries on 10 policy areas. The aim of those indicators is to provide evidence for policy makers from an internationally comparative perspective thereby supporting policy debate and decision-making.

In the policy making process enabling countries to benchmark their practices and their performance is key. Many indicators in the field of public governance are built on the enumeration of legislative provisions, e.g. on budget rules, conflict of interest rules, freedom of information laws, to name a few. However, why legislative provisions are very important, what really matters is how they are implemented in the ground and these are the indicators that we are aiming to introduce more and more in the future.

This corresponds closely with the PSM approach that there is a need to move from the formal rules of the game to the change of behaviors. But a note of caution is warranted in this regard: measuring how rules are implemented and enforced is a much more complicated, time consuming and costly exercise than simply registering the rules of the game.

Government at a Glance is also the tool that could also help the Bank to carry out its own work, as it is mentioned in the PSM Approach that middle income countries demand to be compared to OECD countries. This corresponds with the efforts of the OECD to broaden the country coverage of its publications from OECD member countries to countries in the accession process to the OECD - right now Russia, and countries that the OECD is pursuing enhanced engagement with, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa, as well as countries that are observers to the various committees and want their data to be included (e.g. Egypt and Ukraine for public governance).

This raises new challenges, as data at the OECD is collected from government officials and extra efforts are needed to establish relationships with government officials in these countries and to enable their provision of good quality data.  And the last point I would like to make relates to best practices and whether they should be promoted. The OECD has several best practices guidelines, for example in the area of budget transparency or regulatory quality management. These guidelines form the theoretical basis for indicator development as what we would like to really know is whether and how much countries are comforming to those guidelines. In this regard best practices are still well and alive. At the same time in many areas we acknowledge - such as in Human Resource Management - that there is not one single set of best practices , that the same good performance can be achieved with different governance processes depending on the contextual environment. This duality should also be acknowledged in the PSM strategy.


Zsuzsanna Lonti

Head, Statistics and Indicators, OECD

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