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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.
By Andrew Vaz
October 11. 2016
As populations continue to increase globally, issues within public administration will likely develop and persist enough to create discussion. The question is whether it will specifically address all significant issues. Implementing government policy in a world of increasing demand and finite resources will pose a problem for governments to deal with in the coming decades.
It is time for public administrators to come together and analyze the fundamental problems within the field with the mindset that old practices will not work going forward. Thus, looking for solutions should not come from traditional, but rather, unconventional sources. The problem is not unique and it requires thinking out-of-the-box.
Corruption in Government
As legislators who commit fraud or governments who alienate citizens find ways to continue their illicit activities, public administrators must develop newer countermeasures that ensure accountability. Last year, three in four Americans (75 percent) perceived corruption as widespread in government. In addition, this poll doesn’t account for their feelings toward state and local governments. Reform is required to fix this problem. One such reform is the disclosure of budget information, which prevents waste and misappropriation of resources. For example, Transparency International Sri Lanka promotes transparent and participatory budgeting by training local communities to comment on the proposed budgets of their local government.
The Rise of New Technologies
Technology will have a significant impact on how governments interact with their citizenry and develop appropriate legislation to meet demand. The increased power and accessibility of technology is at the core of most massive perceptual and lifestyle changes in the past decade. High-speed internet has lifted the veil of behind-the-doors meetings and most government operations. More people have cheaper, faster access to stronger, more portable technology that allows them to find and share information. Technology has been a deciding factor in everything from local elections to an entire nation’s popular revolution. Technology changes the way the news is reported, the way law enforcement works, and the way leaders communicate with their constituents.
Engagement in a democracy is very difficult, consider the rise of empathy toward elections that seem rigged. One way to get more diversity in government and to promote social equity in decision-making concerns citizen involvement. Instead of talking down to citizens, we should be listening to the public. Public administrators bring complex issues to the attention of the public. They use public meetings to create discussions, can even delegate research and policy recommendations to a local body that is close to the issue, and then meet to make a decision based upon the recommendations of that body. Citizen involvement helps ensure that public managers do their best to make decisions in the best interest of their constituents.
A persistent problem, discrimination based on race does occur. With the ever growing populations of our world, governments must modernize their policies to avoid prejudice and implicit bias. Popular revolutions in nations like Libya and Egypt have been based on the will of the average citizen in those countries to demand democratic representation. Not dissimilar is the conflict in Ukraine that requires a more nuanced understanding of the democratic process in culturally and ethnically divided nations. Public administration skills must include a conception of democracy not as an either/or binary, but a spectrum.
Public administrators have the obligation to protect minorities from abuse by others. This includes law enforcement. Agencies must improve on their training methods and remove techniques that promote implicit bias toward minorities. Body cameras have ensured accountability by forcing police officers to perform their duties without misconduct.
Administrators must work hard to prevent unequal wealth distribution, especially in the United States, as certain legislators favor economic policies that benefit the wealthy. This has to do with recognizing when people with substantial means, perhaps through wealth and/or education, get public agencies to make decisions that benefit the few, often at the expense of many others. The best example of this is the tax policies of the United States, where the wealthiest Americans pay the same tax rate as the middle and the lower class. Administrators can look at these attempts to manipulate government and advocate for minority groups by discussing the issues with agency leaders.
In order to be effective administrators in the 21st century, public administrators must observe past mistakes and develop new, innovative approaches to significant issues in the public policy arena. The new demand of ever increasing and changing populations requires us to do so.
Author: Andrew R Vaz, M.Sc., M.P.A. is a doctoral student in public policy and administration program at Walden University. He 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 can be reached at [email protected].