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Fall 2004

The International Review of Administrative Sciences is a journal of comparative public administration that has examined the major debates in public administration for more than 75 years. The September 2004 issue begins with a symposium on the theme of Shared Governance: Combating Poverty and Exclusion.” This symposium was prepared by Jocelyne Bourgon, Canada’s Ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and President Emeritus of the Canada School of Public Service. She served as the General Rapporteur of the Second International Regional Conference of the International Institute of Administrative Sciences (IIAS) held in Yaoundé, Cameroon in July 2003 – the conference from which the symposium papers were drawn.

The conference’s theme on “shared governance” addressed the responsibilities and interdependencies of civil society and public institutions at various levels (international, national and sub-national) and how they can work best in alleviating poverty and exclusion. As the first conference organized by the IIAS in Sub-Saharan Africa, the occasion allowed over 300 government practitioners and students of public administration from nearly 50 countries to share international practices in fostering development while focusing on the particular experiences and challenges in Africa.

The theme of “shared governance” derives from the need to develop a new paradigm of development – one that recognizes that no single actor, be it the market or government, can alone transform or modernize society. Based on the successes and failures of earlier development approaches, there is now more awareness that the agenda for reform is far more complex than once envisaged. There are no simple levers to create or share wealth in a given nation. Addressing poverty and exclusion in an enduring fashion must be a collective social effort, necessitating the involvement of many players and increasingly complex agendas.

Despite the diverse range of issues addressed at the conference, discussions and debate reaffirmed a number of fundamental premises. These can be summarized as follows:

  • There is no one way to reduce poverty and exclusion. The unique culture and circumstances in each country render a single development model impossible to achieve.
  • No one governance actor working alone has the power to address the challenges of development and poverty reduction. Although past development efforts that focused on a single sector or on “technical solutions” were not entirely misguided, they were incomplete.
  • To be effective, a development strategy must be based on the participation of individuals and community groups targeted for development. The most impoverished sectors of society that are the focus of development strategies must not be passive beneficiaries, but active participants in developing, designing and implementing development measures.
  • Effective public sector institutions are a necessary condition for ensuring development. Strong state institutions infused with purpose and policy-direction are arguably the most important precondition to achieve sustainable development.

The four papers in the symposium confirm and amplify these conclusions. Michel Legros provides a useful description of l’Observatoire National de la Pauvreté et de l’Exclusion Sociale in France, of which he is a member. Established by the French government in 1999, this institution set out to define more holistically and democratically the nature of poverty and exclusion in that country. Given the inherently subjective definitions of poverty and exclusion, the Observatoire was conceived to investigate various indices of these conditions. Its membership is unique, bringing together seven members each from three groups: government statisticians, representatives from anti-poverty organizations, and university researchers. The implicit premise behind this initiative is that both defining and combating poverty and exclusion must be rooted in an understanding of the complex environments at the local level.

In their examination of the treatment of minorities within various European countries, Berry Tholen and Michiel de Vries offer a rare glimpse into forms of political inclusion and exclusion at the local level. They raise the basic question of whether minorities (and, by extension, other marginalized groups in society) should participate within the existing political structures, have their own organizations and institutions, or be accorded special rights. By assessing the response to these democratic options through surveys of local officials in eastern and western Europe, they remind us that governments are still a long way from creating deliberative forums for citizens and civil society organizations.

In her analysis of anti-poverty policies in Brazil, Christina Andrews points out that a lack of government resources at the local level can be the wellspring of innovative solutions to address poverty and exclusion. She specifically examines the establishment of inter-municipal consortiums, designed to deliver health services in the wake of the decentralization of health services in the late 1980s. These consortiums function as non-profit organizations with decision-making assigned to a council of mayors. Cost-sharing is usually based on population size and rate-of-service use. Her analysis of this mechanism and other anti-poverty measures in Brazil during the last decade leads to two key conclusions. First, national anti-poverty measures must be rooted in the reality of the poor at the local level. Second, the implementation of these measures – often with shared responsibility at the national and local levels – requires coordination and an overall strategy guiding governmental action.

Finally, Mutuwafhethu Mafunisa broadly examines the changing governance environment in South Africa, particularly following adoption of the new constitution in 1996. Reflecting on the tumultuous political and social changes that occurred in post-apartheid South Africa, Mafunisa examines critical elements of good governance that must now be implemented. This includes, for example, civic education campaigns, transparency and whistle-blowing laws, government “report cards”, and ombudsman organizations. A common thread through his paper is the importance of involving civil society in the process of governance.

A key premise in these papers, and virtually all the presentations at the conference, is that development – economic, social and sustainable – without an effective state is impossible. An effective state, not a minimal one, is central to addressing the challenges of poverty and exclusion, especially as a partner and facilitator. Addressing poverty and exclusion must be rooted in a comprehensive understanding of human needs at the grass-roots or local level. This also entails community or local involvement in designing and implementing government policies and programs at the sub-national, national and international levels.

Additional Articles

In addition to the symposium on shared governance, this issue of the Review contains five additional articles dealing with important issues in public administration. The first two of these articles focus on developments in Korea. Se-Jeong Park examines contracting out in Korean local governments. His aim is to remedy the deficiency of information about privatization in these governments. He concentrates on one of the most typical forms of privatization – contracting out. Faced with an economic crisis in the 1990s, the Korean government adopted a privatization policy as one of the main tools for reforming government. In compliance with this national policy, local governments in Korea began to expand privatization in the 1990s. The main topics covered in this article are the background and motivation for contracting out in Korean local governments, the features and results of contracting out, the problems encountered in the process of contracting out, and the tasks ahead. The analysis is based on the actual cases of two regional governments and 17 municipal governments.

The second article on Korea, by Ha Yeon-Seob, focuses on budgetary and financial management reforms. He notes that the financial crisis of 1997 led to a reassessment of the role of the Korean public sector and its management policies. The public sector reforms under the Kim Dae-jung government (1998-2003) were part of a broader movement toward a more market-oriented economy and lower government debt. One of the core programs of the Korean public sector reform has been the restructuring of budgetary and financial management systems. This article shows that budgetary and financial management reforms during the Kim Dae-jung administration were mostly limited to an emphasis on improving technical efficiency in the delivery of public services through the adoption of market-type mechanisms and several minor improvements in the arrangements for flexible financial management.

The next article, by Gerard Pekassa Ndam, argues that in Cameroon the new political impetus towards democratisation and the new legislative environment of liberalisation are having a definite influence on the practices of authorities vested with the power of administrative control. However, the control of organisations providing information remains a major preoccupation of the administrative authorities and has undergone changes. The reform of 1990 regarding communication in Cameroon is ambiguous. Regardless of the advances that can be attributed to it, its scope appears limited. This reform ushered in a new era but the liberalisation in question was delimited. Far from being a “legal revolution”, the reform of December 1990 offers the prospect of less cumbersome administrative control on information-providing organisations because it is dependent on the slow rate of democratisation of the national political system.

In the next article, Kalu N. Kalu explores the importance of institutional capital to the embedding of African democracy and development. He notes that the concept of democracy has remained central in most academic and political discourse on African development and asks what alternative approaches to the state-centric model are open to African states, and how they could enhance the nature of state-society relations and the process of economic development. While this question informs the general thesis as well as the specific arguments advanced in this article, Africa’s peculiar condition presents a case not so much about transitions to democracy (since these have been attempted in many cases), but about the consolidation of enduring democracies. The missing link is the acquisition of critical institutional capital that would facilitate a systemic shift from traditional models of development to more pragmatic and integrative approaches. In order of priority, what Africa needs most are institutional reconstruction, state consolidation, and democratic governance.

The final paper, by Maja Klun, focuses on performance measurement of tax administration in Slovenia. The author explains that public sector reform has meant changes in tax administration but tax reform in most countries has overlooked administrative improvements and focused instead on changing tax rates, addressing the economic efficiency of the tax system and developing new forms of taxation. The literature does not offer any common definitions for measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of a tax administration, presenting a piecemeal approach to its operations. This paper proposes a model for the comprehensive performance measurement of a tax administration and describes the use of this model in assessing the work of Slovenia’s tax administration. The assessment revealed a common problem with measurements in transition countries, demonstrating that the tax administration is only aware of weak points in areas assessed using indicators derived from data it collects itself. This neglects soft indicators and work assessments assisted by taxpayers. Evaluating work using indicators of this type has revealed the poor functioning of the tax administration in several areas

Upcoming Debates

The major theme to be examined in the next edition of this web page is “Challenges to Poverty and Exclusion.” These papers complement those published in the September issue of the Review. The papers in this symposium, together with other papers, will be briefly summarized on this web page and published in full in the International Review of Administrative Sciences. Information on the Review is available at http://www.iiasiisa.be/iias/airisa/airisa.htm).