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Global Perspectives of Public Administration: Public Sector Reform and New Public Management

A note for our readers: the views reflected by the authors do not reflect the views of ASPA.

By Andrew Vaz

The 21st century has been a difficult period in the realm of public administration, marred with war and conflict. Major tragedies have the ability to shape how politics and administration works, not only in the country where the event occurred but in other nations as well.

The century began with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. This event which saw nearly 3,000 people lose their lives was the catalyst for the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. A second war began in Iraq, which saw the fall of a tyrannical government and the rise of more instability in the region. Although the Iraq War has ended and the conflict in Afghanistan is ending, inter-regional conflicts between nations are still taking place and they are beginning to spread.

The recent tragedy of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 has pushed the regional conflict in Ukraine onto the doorsteps of every nation around the world. The victims were from several countries, including the United States and the Netherlands. It is the deadliest incident thus far in the conflict with an outpouring of sympathy coming from both the Ukrainian and Russian government, although no one has declared any responsibility. Occurring at the same time is the battle over the Gaza Strip between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which present pressure to surrounding nations such as Egypt and Syria.

Vaz - GlobalizationThe question is how can regional conflicts become policy issues in other nations that require international intervention? The answer is globalization. The concept of a globally connected world has been the greatest challenge to the theory of public administration. The push for a global perspective of public administration has never been greater as we will continue to have conflicts that will cross international boundaries and require the attention of the global community.

Public administration around the world 

If we are going to begin a discussion involving the concept of globalization, one must refer to Thomas Loren Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize winner and journalist. It was Thomas Friedman, in his book entitled The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, who said that globalization has made the world flat. What that means is governments are no longer acting independently to resolve situations. The repercussions of no intervention in regional conflicts bears too much pressure on outside governments. The crisis in Rwanda in 1994 is the most prominent example. The genocide, which lasted approximately 100 days and resulted in the deaths of 1,000,000 Rwandans, has placed a black eye on the United Nations and the rest of the international community for their lack of support. Despite efforts on the United Nations to create committees in response to Rwanda, the same criticism is still felt in nations where there is ongoing crisis, such as Sri Lanka and Darfur. Due to the interconnectedness of our world, having a major conflict can cast a ‘black eye’ on that nation.

Most countries do not want to be considered rogue or failed states, thus the pressure has been on governments to participate in inter-regional and multinational organizations, like the United Nations and NATO. Thus, globalization can directly affect a government’s operations, how it manages its administration and its relationship with everyday citizens. All of this is included in what is known as public sector reform, a phenomenon that has given rise to new public management (NPM).

Public sector reform 

Globalization has managed to redefine the responsibilities for the state, to where it has decompressed to have more powers. The idea of public sector reform is to make government work more efficiently, producing results while improving the quality of life for its citizens. According to the Office of Public Sector Reform’s website for the Government of Barbados, public sector reform is to “transform the public sector into a dynamic organization, providing high quality service at minimum costs, building the capacity of public servants, promoting the competitive development of Barbados and improving the living standards of its people.” In other words, public sector reform makes the government operates more identical to a private sector business.

According to the article “Globalization and Public Sector Reforms in a Developing Country,” written by Hemant B. Chittoo, Needesh Ramphul and Bhissum Nowbutsing, the role of states is being reduced to that of creating a conductive environment for private sector-led development. Experience and evidence show that the public sector has to reduce the cost-burden it puts on the economy and roll-back so as not to crowd-out the private sector. The authors go on to state that the public sector itself has become more customer-focused and efficient by adopting private-sector approaches to management or be privatized altogether. The focus of the public sector will be one of policy formulation rather than implementation – a series of reforms collectively known as new public management (NPM).

New public management  

A relatively contemporary concept, new public management (NPM) is defined as the reforms in government policy that attempts to modernize the public sector to produce greater efficiency. It reduces costs and breaks down the bureaucracy from a rather large entity into smaller fragments. It has been the dominant force in public management since the 1980s.

There are problems with this model of public management, mostly dealing with implementation. Chittoo, Ramphul and Nowbutsing note that historical, sociological, cultural or legal obstacles, plus lack of motivation and the limited capacity of governments will remain, the extent varying from one country to another. The World Bank (1995) acknowledges the problematic nature of implementation due to political obstacles to privatization. 

Going forward 

Governments will operate more as private sector companies in both developed and developing nations. Thanks to globalization, nations now have an obligation to modernize their management system to reflect those in other nations. The global perspective of public management is that of producing efficiency at a low cost in an interconnected world.

 

Author: Andrew R Vaz, M.S., M.P.A. is a graduate of the Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Master of Public Administration double master’s program at Florida International University. He has been admitted to the doctoral program in Public Policy and Administration at Walden University. He can be reached at [email protected]

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