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Winter 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 December 2004 issue begins with the 2004 Braibant Lecture delivered this year by Francis Delpérée and entitled “Constitution and Administration”. The lecture by Professor Delpérée is followed by three articles dealing with different dimensions of public management and by a symposium of five papers on the theme of “Public Administration: Challenges of Poverty and Exclusion.”

In the first of the three articles, Ian Thynne and Roger Wettenhall note that a key theme of recent reforms in public management in various countries is the perceived need for many organizations in government to have a degree of legal and operational autonomy. They argue that in studying this and other aspects of the reforms there is considerable merit in examining how the underlying ideas have been explored in earlier works. They contend that this is particularly relevant to the current interest in organizational autonomy. Pertinent ideas, issues and concerns were addressed several decades ago by scholars such as Macmahon, Seidman, Selznick and Follett. Thynne and Wettenhall note that the contributions of these scholars have continuing analytical value and deserve to be revisited.

Then, in the second article, Joseph Soeters and Mussie Teclemichael Tessema examine public management in developing countries, with particular reference to Eritrea. They note that a system of adequately performing public bureaucracies is a basic requirement for developing countries to progress and prosper. However, public management in developing countries is often threatened by politicisation and ineffective HRM policies. The article shows that in current Eritrea all known styles of public management concur and collide – a result of the cultural, educational and political background of the various population groups that strive for job opportunities in the public sector. Only a managerial policy stressing practical wisdom and intelligence may satisfy all of those groups engaged in Eritrea’s public management – an important learning point for public organizations in all developing countries.

In the third article, Toby Fyfe contents that the new integrated global environment has resulted in a paradigm shift from the nation-state to the international community as a driver of change, an unprecedented degree and speed of change, the replacement of single policy issues with cross-cutting ones, and a demand by citizens for improved service delivery. In response, governments are creating alternative service delivery (ASD) arrangements. Jurisdictions using alternative service delivery fall on a continuum of organizational change. There are Slow Starters in which all service delivery is state-owned, operated and designed around government needs. There are Structural Changers that pursue a formulaic approach to organizational change. Finally, there are Transformational Changers that take a principles-based case-by-case approach to organizational renewal, ensuring that each initiative responds to the particular challenge of the nation and its entities. In Canada, the Policy on Alternative Service Delivery provides guidance with the Public Interest Test, a series of areas that jurisdictions can reference as they pursue organizational change.

The five papers in the symposium were originally presented as papers to the conference of the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration held in Miami, Florida in September 2003. The general rapporteur for this conference, Dr. Bernardo Kliksberg, also served as guest editor for this symposium. In his introduction to the symposium, Dr. Kliksberg outlines the scope of the challenges to public administration posed by poverty and exclusion around the world and notes that time is of the essence in meeting these challenges. He explains that a recent World Bank study of world leaders shows that 70 percent of leaders in various sectors consider confronting poverty crucial for reducing global tensions. He also emphasizes the extremely important ethical consideration that “poverty kills” and the principal obligation of a human society in all the world's beliefs is to respect and protect life.

Dr. Kliksberg also contributed a separate paper on myths and truths in social policy in Latin America. Although Latin America is a continent with enormous economic potential that is going through a hopeful and positive process of democratization, has acute social problems. A central reason for the high poverty levels is the high level of inequality. Recent reports conclude that these inequalities were worsened by the orthodox policies applied in countries like Argentina during the 90s, which reduced the middle classes and increased polarization. His paper examines a series of myths about social policies that lead down erroneous paths and that are applicable to other regions of the developing world as well. He suggests the need to overcome these myths and urgently advance economic policies with a human face as well as aggressive and well-managed social policies.

In a related paper, Dr. Abakholwa Moses Sindane contends that the New Public Management approach to public affairs is perpetuating rather than reversing the already unacceptable level of inequalities, exclusions and poverty, both domestically and globally. In emerging democracies, especially in Africa, the situation is rendered worse by poverty, inadequate education and political instability. In such situations the role of the state and its machinery, that is, public administration assumes greater proportions in the promotion of the general welfare of the population. Such situations cannot be left to economic imperatives as suggested by the New Public Management approaches. Marketization is by nature exclusive and cannot be reconciled with the promotion of the general welfare and the resolution of social issues. The design of its curricula for public administration must keep in mind the developmental level of each country and its population while being mindful of international trends for its adaptation at a pace suited for the specific country.

In the third paper, Dr. Chu Songyan examines the fight for equality in the transformation of China, with a focus on the importance of community building during the process of urbanization. Social justice is an important tenet of China’s process of reform and openness. During its current rapid economic transition, urbanization is creating new opportunities and new challenges for the effort to maintain social justice based on individual rights. Community building has become an important priority. Both the theoretical literature and the concrete activities of citizens illustrate the efforts of both urban and rural citizens. In order to maintain social justice during the transition, China must break down the dual-citizenship system established by the hukou system of division between urban and rural citizens. Citizens of communities should participate in public policymaking processes without such classification. Current activities across China demonstrate that efforts toward such equality have been initiated.

The next paper, by Guido Bertucci of the United Nations, explains the UNDESA/IASIA initiative for enhancing the capacity of public sector leadership. The United Nations Millennium Declaration lays out an important development agenda for the next fifteen years. Governmental leaders in many countries must have the skills and knowledge necessary to provide the kind of leadership necessary for successfully implementing the Declaration and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The joint UNDESA/IASOA initiative is a four-year effort to improve the quality of education and training in public administration worldwide, but with particular emphasis on Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. One track will be to focus on the education and training needs of the current generation of government leaders; the second on the next generation of leaders. The initiative will assist top-level government leaders to adapt effectively to the many complex problems facing contemporary government in a globalizing world.

In the final paper of the symposium, Rebeca Grynspan complements the earlier paper by Dr. Kliksberg on Latin America and, like Guido Bertucci, she relates her argument to the Millennium Development Goals. She explains that the great economic growth achieved in Latin America during the 90s was accompanied by negative characteristics ranging from unemployment to volatility. Moreover, the “lost half-decade” of 1997-2002 witnessed an increase in poverty and growing inequality. The promise of accelerated growth, low unemployment, improved income distribution and reduction of poverty were far from achieved despite the liberalization that led to higher exports and direct foreign investment. In the aftermath, a space has opened for the broad, creative review of the region’s development agenda, particularly in light of the Millennium Development Goals. If Latin America is to meet these goals it must not only achieve economic growth and recover external markets, but also complement these with a dynamic level of development that is integrating, inclusive, equitable, democratic and participatory.

Upcoming Debates

The major theme to be examined in the next edition of this web page is “E-Governance: Challenges and Opportunities for Democracy, Administration and Law.” The papers in this symposium, together with six peer-reviewed articles on a variety of public administration topics, 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).




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