Public Administration: Meaning, Evolution, Challenges

Public Administration: Meaning, Evolution, Challenges

What is Public Administration?

As a practice, Public Administration (PA) can be traced to the beginning of recorded human history. Administration, in one form or another, has existed since the dawn of human civilization. Public administration changed slowly in an incremental manner during the ancient times and the medieval age.

However, changes in public administration started to take definitive shape during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But with the ushering in of the twenty-first century, the pace of change in public administration has quickened tremendously. This is because of the cumulative pressure of a number of factors of critical significance.

Public administration is now a key component in the complex network of governance institutions — sometimes influencing other institutions and other times influenced by them.

Evolution of Public Administration: From Administration to Management

As a field of study, public administration has never been static. Rather, every now and then, it has to adjust its boundaries. In the last few years, public administration has had to redefine its perspective, and the word “administration” has been replaced by the word “management.”

Though this fine-tuning is perceived to have confined the focus, in reality, it has resulted in an extension of the field. What is often forgotten is that by substituting ‘administration’ with ‘management,’ we are actually expanding the traditional boundary of the administrative machinery by allowing it to have more interaction with the private sector.

This constant interaction with the private sector is injecting concepts like “contracting out,” “value for money,” or “managerialism” within the public sector, and the result is moving away from the traditional focus of public administration, i.e., institutions and activities of the public agencies.

Public administration is now on the verge of crossing the limit of mere “public”-ness and is letting its existence be felt in the private arena. Thus, the misleading concept of “the demise of public administration” is, in fact, the rebirth of the field.

The Call for a New Identity in Public Administration

That public administration requires a new identity became evident from the beginning of the 1970s. It was well understood that the traditional orientation of the administrative machinery was failing to meet the changing societal needs.

The government agencies had been criticized as too centralized, procedure-bound, and input-oriented organizations.

Their rigidity, hierarchical structure, and overemphasis on accountability were considered key impediments to fulfilling the demands of the citizens.

Furthermore, these agencies were considered to be wasteful, revenue-driven, and profit-making, which had never been their intention. The early ’70s reformers of the field pointed out these problems and voiced “… a concern for social equity, sensitivity to human suffering, and social needs.”

What is interesting to note here, at this point in time, is that the reformers did not go for a complete overhaul of the administrative system but rather concentrated on making the administration more responsive and proactive.

At the same time, they did not focus on injecting business norms and values into public organizations but attempted to make it more citizen-friendly. This actually laid the foundation of the New Public Administration movement later on in the late 1970s.

Transition to New Public Management

Over the ’80s, though limited to the OECD countries only, a new concept developed which attempted to replace Progressive Public Administration (PPA).

It actually challenged the traditional doctrines of “… public accountability and public administration.” As Hood (1995) described: This development can be claimed to be part of a broader shift in received doctrines of public accountability and public administration.

At the same time, accounting changes formed an important part of the assault on the progressive-era models of public accountability (Hood, 1995:93-94). The PPA had two basic doctrines — distinguishing the public sector from the private sphere and introducing “… an elaborate structure of procedural rules” to check political and managerial discretion.

The New Public Management (NPM) movement entered into the conceptual arena of public administration as a modified version of Progressive Public Administration.

It emphasized revising these two basic doctrines — first, removing or lessening the difference between public and private administration, and second, highlighting result-based accountability rather than process accountability (Hood, 1995).

Largely influenced by economic theories and the corporate sector’s organizational structure, the NPM movement advocated for — a decentralized organizational structure by bringing an end to hierarchy, injecting private sector management techniques and the value of competition into the public sector, cost-cutting and ensuring proper utilization of resources for service delivery; introducing a measurable performance management system and a move towards hands-on management.

This transition of public administration was not only necessary but also inevitable.

Public Administration and Political Science: A Historical Connection

Strictly speaking, public administration is the business of the government — it is the implementation dimension, the designing authority that translates the laws enacted by the politicians.

Public administration, for its birth, is largely indebted to political science. The entire science of administration is centered on the study of politics, and, in fact, the “complementarity” of politics and administration, often misled as a dichotomy, is considered the founding theory of public administration (Svara, 1999; Sayre, 1958).

However, since the early 1970s, several significant changes occurred that significantly impacted both the exercise and dimension of administration.

The rising expectations about and lowering confidence in government service, the pace of industrialization, the demand for participation, and the introduction of new management techniques forced the government to redefine its role and redesign its methods. This is natural because the government does not work in a vacuum.

It has to operate within a complex web of internal and external political activities. As the government has to respond to many conflicting forces in a turbulent environment, it forces the administrative machinery to adjust its position (Welch & Wong, 2001).

Eventually, this compelled public administration to move away from political science and come closer to political economy.

The Shift Towards Governance

As a result, this closeness with economics and even closer interaction with market forces compel public administration to concentrate on efficiency by redefining accountability, on the competence of managers by allowing them a certain degree of discretion, and on redefining citizens as clients or customers. Another noteworthy change that has occurred is in the structure of the organization.

Moving away from the Weberian hierarchical order, public organizations have redesigned their structure to accommodate new values and management techniques. The initial attack was on the centralized structure and process-driven attitude.

Thus, the bureaucratic structure of public organizations came to be termed as post-bureaucratic, and these organizations are structured now to ensure that quality services are delivered to the citizens; leadership is participative in nature; organizations are change-oriented, and authority and control systems are decentralized where a wide variety of mechanisms delivers programs.

Now, the question is—where does governance fit into all this? Cleveland first introduced the word “governance” back in the mid-70s. By governance, he actually indicated a number of things.

First, as a concept, governance means the structure and the decision-making process within the government.

Second, governance indicates the “… blurring of distinctions between public and private.” Third, in this governance structure, accountability depends on the responsibility felt by the officials to the public.

Thus, this earlier concept of governance refers to an organization with a flatter, decentralized structure that highlights public responsibility and where “… ‘decision-making’ will become an increasingly intricate process of multilateral brokerage both inside and outside the organization which thinks it has the responsibility for making, or at least announcing, the decision” (Cleveland, 1972:13).

Since then, several attempts have been made to define governance. Frederickson (2004) actually made a list of them —

  • Governance is the way government gets its jobs done.
  • Structure of political institutions;
  • Shift from bureaucratic state to third-party government;
  • Market-based approaches to government;
  • Work of empowered, risk-taking entrepreneurs; and
  • Development of civil society, social capital, and citizen participation (Frederickson, 2004).

From Public Administration to Governance: An Evolution

Looking at these definitions, it becomes quite clear that governance actually means the method through which the government works. Thereby, it will not be inappropriate to comment that what was ‘public administration’ in the past has now become ‘governance’ with added zeal.

New Public Management: The Core of Modern Governance

Quite interestingly, the methods identified through these definitions are — Public Private Partnership (PPP), Let the Managers Manage, a profit-oriented government; and all these methods are essential ingredients of New Public Management (NPM).

Henceforth, there is a reason why some scholars define governance as the New Public Management (NPM) or managerialism.

Bridging Civil Society and State: The Governance Perspective

However, at the same time, governance is an extension of NPM as it emphasizes the need to create a link between civil society organizations and the state.

And “… the governance perspective on the public bureaucracy highlights those links because they are elements of a broader strategy for service production and delivery that is open to a range of means of generating services”. Thus, governance, in effect, is the government with added dimensions and a role to play.

The Impact of Globalization on Public Administration

PA cannot escape in this century the influence of globalization, good governance, the relentless pressure of citizens for high-quality service at a lower cost, limited resources, and the demand of the private sector and third sector (NGOs included) for increased access to the erstwhile preserve of the government. These developments and demands have basically set the parameters within which PA must operate.

The Vital Role of an Effective State

Globalization. Two key themes can be noticed repeatedly in recent literature on public administration.

First, “that an effective state is vital for the provision of goods and services; and the rules and institutions that allow markets to flourish and people to lead healthier, happier lives” (World Bank, 1997). Second, within the framework of the state, public administration will continue to exist in a much different form.

Global Pressures Reshaping Public Administration

Global pressures are bringing changes in the nature of public administration. The character of the state is also changed in the process. Three major global pressures, i.e., information technology, global institutions, and efficiency and productivity, are of particular relevance here (Welch and Wong, 1998). Many global forces and factors now impact public administration.

These include communications, economic diplomacy, technology transfers, resource flows, and non-governmental organizations (UN, 1998:15-16).

Driving Efficiency and Productivity in Public Administration

Efficiency and productivity are two areas where considerable changes resulted due to the constant pressure of globalization.

Focus on efficiency and productivity has compelled PA to make continuous efforts to cut waste, increase output, and provide better service to customers. Resource scarcity has led to global pressure to streamline, downsize, and privatize many core public sector functions.

New Roles and Relationships in Governance

Fundamentally, globalization “has led to the development of new roles, relationships, and partnerships among government, citizens, and business and heightened the influence of the public on governance policies and institutions”. Naturally, the role of PA has changed to that of a partner, catalyst, and facilitator.

Good Governance

Recent and renewed interest in Good Governance (GG) is not surprising as ideologies of PA are also changing with an increasing focus on protecting foreign private investment and property, wider application of market principles, and the extent of governmental control over the economy (UN 1998:18).

The basic tenets of GG are the promotion of democracy and open, pluralistic societies, strengthening of transparent, accountable, and effective national government, reinforcement of the rule of law, including a fair and accessible legal and judicial system, promotion of an independent media and dissemination of information, and anti-corruption and efforts to reduce excessive military expenditure.

Good governance needs to be understood and analyzed from a holistic perspective. Good governance cannot be achieved without taking into consideration its vital linkages with democratization initiatives, the human rights situation, the state of participatory development, and the nature of government policies and programs in a particular country.

The nature of government policies is very much dependent on the manner PA functions. It follows then that PA is a key element of GG, and its orientations need to align with changes in the citizens’ expectations.

Heightened Expectations

There is now a global movement that is generating momentum every day, focusing on the rights of the citizens.

This movement is premised on treating the citizen as a customer. This means that every citizen is entitled to receive quality services from public servants regularly and on time, and the latter must be held accountable for their performance.

Several reform initiatives like Performance Pledge (PP), Citizen Charters (CC), and Total Quality Management (TQM) are in place in many countries, intended to improve service delivery in the public sector.

Civil Society and Private Sector

Civil society is a nebulous term. There is no universal agreement as to the constituents of civil society. However, it is assumed that non-state actors and institutions comprise civil society. This means NGOs and professional associations of all categories not linked to government can be considered to be key members of civil society.

In this age of globalization and market liberalization, the private sector is expected to provide many services to citizens in many developed countries that were once the preserve of the public sector in the not-too-distant past.

Public administration now competes with civil society and private sector institutions to provide services to citizens. The citizens have now become empowered and can choose from alternative service offers. So, PA must perform to satisfy customers’ need for access to resources and shares of power within society.

Lessons For Public Administration

The last three decades have been eventful for those who have been involved with public administration in one capacity or another. Academic exercises, consultancies, congresses, conferences, round tables, and seminars have discussed, debated, and recommended measures to make public administration efficient, effective, and proactive. New ideas have been floated from all directions. Merely tracking and putting them together would be a Herculean task.

That is not attempted below. Only some selective lessons have been presented within a brief compass.

Avoiding the Trap of Complacency

One of the most critical lessons public administrators have learned from experience is that there is little room for complacency.

There is little scope for being satisfied with past accomplishments. There is always the need to effectively tackle new problems cropping up with monotonous regularity.

Consequently, the urge is to devise innovative solutions. This calls for a new brand of public servants who are not averse to risk-taking and prone to thinking before acting.

Establishing Morality in Public Life

The existence of widespread corruption and abuse of power by public officials in many developing countries has raised questions about the viability of the state itself. Narrow and short-sighted policies have failed to check the spread of corruption and reform public servants.

So, inculcating appropriate values among public officials has become a priority. In this context, the role of family and peer groups is indeed critical. There is no alternative but to establish and maintain morality in public life.

Public Sector, Private Sector and NGOs Working Together

It is now inevitable that the state’s dominant role in societal affairs is over. There is now an increasing realization that the public, private, and NGOs realize the new reality and act accordingly.

Role differentiation among the three has had a significant impact on society. Dependence on the public sector for essential services has considerably lessened in many developed countries.

These services are now contracted out to the private sector. The private sector, in turn, provides such services mostly to the customers’ satisfaction. NGOs continue to provide remarkable services to the poor in some developing countries in microfinance, non-formal education, and basic health care.

One of the moot issues here is the rationalization of manpower in the public sector and the consequent enhancement of efficiency and effectiveness in its services.

Major Reforms without Political Commitment Doomed to Fail

One of the most critical lessons of the past three decades is that major civil service reforms are bound to fail miserably unless they are backed by strong political will and commitment.

Failure of major and far-reaching Administrative Reform (AR) efforts during the last three decades in the countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East testifies in no uncertain terms that political support and commitment are the keys to the implementation of major reform initiatives.

Authority and Capacity

There is a need for the promoters of change to have the authority and capacity to drive the reforms and to see them implemented (Draper, 2003:6). Sometimes, even with political support, reforms do not go far because change agents lack the necessary authority and required capacity.

Challenges For Public Administration

Challenges that lie ahead for PA in the future would not be easy to achieve if leaders of all sectors — political, bureaucratic, private, and NGOs — are willing to face and welcome change. A dizzying pace of change will be the order of the day.

Naturally enough, to cope with such a scenario, PA will have to come up with appropriate and relevant reforms. Such reforms can be numerous and sometimes overwhelming. The intention here is to discuss only some of these reforms.

Achieving Better-Integrated Citizen-Focused Service Delivery

In the future, there will be still more demand for better services in many more areas. At the same time, complexities will further increase when multiple agencies provide, manage, and coordinate a host of closely related and sometimes overlapping services.

Hence, there will be a critical need to achieve better integrated citizen-focused service delivery. Above all, there is now a clear recognition that in the future, significant improvements in public service delivery require the adoption of a holistic approach based on information technology.

Canada has launched a Service Improvement Initiative focused on citizen-centered service delivery.

This initiative is partially based on feedback from citizens who have identified priorities for improving government service delivery to include easier, more convenient, and more seamless access to government services, as well as higher levels of quality and performance in service delivery by government organizations.

Appropriate Ethical Code and Agreed Values

The concern with ethics and values will remain. The challenge for PA in the future will be how to formulate and implement an appropriate ethical code of conduct for diverse and different categories of public officials in the face of diversity.

At the same time, agreed public service values need to be maintained throughout the entire gamut of the public service.

Effectively Managing Change

There will be no alternative in the future but to manage change.

But it will not be easy. Effectively managing change would require ensuring appropriate resources for the change effort, focusing on institutional strengthening of central public service reform units, and strong and consistent top-level political and bureaucratic support.

Modernizing Human Resource Management

Undertaking still more reforms in the area of Human Resource Management (HRM) will be another key challenge for PA in the future.

The reform focus in the HRM area in the future will include the following themes: rethinking the role of public service commissions, focusing on a new performance management and appraisal system, focusing on leadership development and leadership competencies, creating the senior executive service, and contracting senior public service.

In some countries, human resource (HR) functions are increasingly devolved to line ministries from Public Service Commissions (PSCs).

This has allowed line managers to hire, discipline, and set conditions of service for officers and employees. This trend is set to intensify further in the future and will make PSCs obsolete and the concept of a unified civil service questionable.

Performance management and appraisal systems are changing, responding to the needs of the time. The changes have linked promotion to performance, de-emphasized seniority, and introduced performance-based pay and bonus systems.

This trend will further gain momentum in the future and lead to productivity and client satisfaction. The constant pressure to cope with change and inadequacies of existing knowledge has forced a focus on the learning needs of leaders, along with identifying their competencies and developing their learning opportunities.

This trend pertaining to leadership development will assume added importance for decades, as the importance of competent leadership will always be valued. The creation of a senior executive service and contract senior public service are both premised on competence.

There will be no alternative to competency-based leadership in the future. The permanence of position will be a thing of the past as only the competent ones will be chosen and given a specific tenure to prove their mettle.

Improving Public Service Management

Public Service Management (PSM), a key component of wider HRM, will require special focus in years to come. All the challenges pertaining to HRM mentioned above will also be applicable to PSM.

Still, some additional challenges are delineated below. One of the most critical challenges that PSM will have to face in the future is attracting and retaining talented people within the public service against the attraction of more lucrative offers from the private sector, transnational organizations, and national and international non-governmental organizations.

To attract and retain highly qualified individuals, the public sector must be willing and ready to pay such individuals market rates with a congenial work environment. The other challenge would be to learn how to manage in a highly complex and interlinked knowledge-based age.

The future would compel PSM to devise new approaches, skills, forms, and structures to accomplish tasks.

Effective Use of Information Technology

There has been significant progress in many countries, especially in the last decade, in effectively utilizing information technology in all sectors of life. The public sector has not been an exception in this regard. Rather, increasing the use of Information Technology (IT) in public service is necessary, especially to improve service delivery.

In the future, IT can be used to create, sustain, and utilize an integrated management information system to improve resource management and utilization.

It needs to be emphasized that IT will have infinite possibilities in the future to assist PA in performing its newer responsibilities and effectively facing the challenges of tomorrow.

Public Administration in a Globalized World

Globalization is now a widely used term. One of the reasons for conflicting views on globalization is that there is no universally accepted definition of the term. It has assumed a multi-dimensional character encompassing economic, social, political, and cultural activities.

There is an urgent need to discuss the impact of globalization on public administration and the response of public administration to recent trends.

The concept of globalization, in the literature, has been generally depicted as an irresistible new force that will either wreck or save the planet. Some have equated globalization with qualitative changes that a new civilization is bringing.

Others have dismissed globalization as a fad, a fashionable concept in the majority of the social sciences, a core dictum in the prescriptions of management gurus, and a catchphrase for journalists and politicians of all types. Globalization incorporates a bundle of different economic, technological, political, and ecological processes.

Originally published as “Changing Trends in Public Administration: The Globalization Context” in A. Dhameja ed., Contemporary Debates in Public Administration.

Keeping this perspective in mind, the UN document (2001) defines ‘globalization’ as increased and intensified flows between countries.

These flows are of goods, services, capital, ideas, information, and people, which produce national cross-border integration of several economic, social, and cultural activities.

This definition, among other things, points to a world where the state’s role in general has come under vigilant scrutiny. The viability of the state in its present shape has been questioned. The focus has been more and more on a modified concept of sovereignty in an era of a ‘borderless world’. Some perceive states as local authorities of the global system.

The prominence of multinational corporations, international and multilateral organizations, and non-governmental organizations has considerably reduced the sphere of influence of nation-states in global forums, regional meetings, and local-level interactions.

International markets and new information technology have also reduced the state’s claim to extensive control of its territory (Hirst and Thompson, op.cit.).

What concerns public administration is that globalization has tremendously affected its nature in almost all countries of the world.

Ali Farazmand (1991) attempted to relate public administration with globalization by examining the various meanings of the latter.

He has viewed globalization in six different yet interrelated ways: internationalization, border openness, process, ideology, and as both a transcending phenomenon and a process. Internationalization indicates ‘an increase in cross-border relations among organizations that extend beyond national jurisdictional boundaries.’

Border openness means ‘large-scale openness of borders achieved by removing state regulatory barriers and protectionist measures to facilitate rapid financial transactions, communications, trade, and cultural relationships.’

According to Farazmand, globalization is also a continuous process of capital accumulation.

The key tenets of Western liberal democracy, like freedom, individualism, free enterprise, and pluralism, are indistinguishable from globalization as these form its ‘guiding force.’

Globalization is also viewed as a phenomenon linked to ‘world capitalism’s endless efforts to reach global markets for accelerated accumulation of capital.’

Globalization, both as a transcending phenomenon and a process, considers it ‘as a process of accumulation by global capitalism, a constant process of expansion into new frontiers and opportunities for increasing capital accumulation at the global level’.

Globalization’s Varied Impact on Public Administration

Globalization and its impact on public administration have been differently portrayed in the literature covering a wide range of areas. Hence, the focus of viewers has also varied considerably depending on their perception. Two central themes occur repeatedly.

First, that “an effective state is vital for the provision of goods and services; and the rules and institutions that allow markets to flourish and people to lead healthier, happier lives.”

Second, within the framework of the state, public administration will continue to exist, albeit in a different form.

The Changing Nature of Public Administration Under Global Pressures

Global pressures are increasingly changing the character of the state and the nature of public administration. Three major global pressures, namely information technology, global institutions, and efficiency and productivity, are of particular importance.

Information Technology Enhancing Public Administration

Information technology enables public administration to work efficiently and effectively by enhancing its capacity to reorganize and restructure by affecting the speed and direction of information flow. So, a wide range of individuals, groups, and institutions can share information for everybody’s mutual benefit.

The Pressure of Global Institutions

Besides access, the economy can be attained by supplying important information to inquisitive and demanding citizens. The pressure of global institutions means the impact of these formalized and powerful bodies on policies undertaken by individual countries.

Efficiency, Productivity, and Public Sector Challenges

Efficiency and productivity are two areas where considerable changes have resulted due to the constant pressures of globalization. Public sector organizations are now under worldwide pressure to enhance their productivity by increasing efficiency.

The Emerging Consensus on the Role of the State

There is an emerging consensus that though the state is still central in many countries in promoting economic and social development, it must not continue to play the role of a universal provider. Rather, it should assume a new role of a partner, catalyst, and facilitator.

Strategies for an Effective and Credible State

A two-pronged strategy has been suggested to make every state a more credible and effective partner in its development. The first strategy calls for matching the state’s role to its capacity. The second strategy emphasizes raising the state’s capability by reinvigorating public institutions.

Fundamental Tasks for the State

So the state should focus on four fundamental tasks: establishing a strong foundation of law, maintaining a non-distortionary policy, investing in basic social services and infrastructure, and protecting the vulnerable people and environment.

Reinventing Public Sector Performance

The successful implementation of the second strategy will require undertaking a number of actions.

These include designing effective rules and necessary restraints, checking arbitrary actions, combating corruption, subjecting state institutions to greater competition, enhancing the performance of state institutions, improving the efficiency level of public sector employees and their pay and incentives, and bringing government closer to the people through broader participation and decentralization.

Collaboration Among Markets, Governments, and Third Sector Organizations

The message is clear. The state is not in a position to do everything on its own. Markets, governments, and third sector organizations, i.e., Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) must perform their designated responsibilities.

Ensuring Policy Outcomes Reach the Poor

States are expected to build institutional set-ups to encourage the private sector to invest. Rules and policies must be in place and need to be applied consistently on a regular basis.

Challenging Traditional Goals and Practices in Public Administration

Globalization is challenging the basis of some of the long-cherished goals and traditions of public administration. The utility of maintaining secrecy, except in cases where it involves national security in official transactions, has come under serious scrutiny.

Response Of Public Administration To Globalization

Responding to challenges posed by globalization has not been an easy issue for public administration. Scholars and practitioners, to cope with the pressures of globalization, have adopted several strategies. Sometimes, these strategies appear to be overlapping and numerous.

But these need to be understood in terms of the paradigm shift that is slowly but surely taking place, which tends to change the nature and character of public administration.

The barrage of criticisms and accusations leveled against public administration has seriously undermined its credibility as a profession and practice.

Coping with the pressures of globalization has been rather tedious. The prescriptions for change are based on redesigning the state as well as reinvigorating public administration.

Redesigning the state has meant continuously chipping away its functions and responsibilities. Naturally, four common targets of any reform and reorganization are usually seen.

These are privatization and deregulation, establishing market-like mechanisms, decentralization, and de-bureaucratization (UN, 2001). All these targets are intended to create a competitive public administration premised on managerialism. Some of the responses have been of significant import.

The NPM Initiative

The basic tenets of managerialism or New Public Management (NPM) have already been accepted and implemented in many developed countries, including the USA, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

The NPM, which has been termed ‘as the acceptable face of New Right theory concerning the states and providing a label under which private sector disciplines can be introduced to the public services, political control strengthened, budgets trimmed, professional autonomy reduced, public service unions weakened and a quasi-competitive framework erected to flush out the internal inefficiencies of bureaucracy’.

Though many approaches are available, NPM has had the most significant impact on reshaping public administration to cope with the challenges of globalization.

The four targets of state reforms have greatly influenced the NPM. It has developed certain catchy phrases and principles and influenced the fundamental premise of reinventing government.

Four major aspects of NPM are:

  • A much bolder and larger scale use of market-like mechanisms for those parts of the public sector that could not be transferred directly into private ownership;
  • Intensified organizational and spatial decentralization of the management and production of services;
  • A constant rhetorical emphasis on the need to improve service quality and
  • An equally relentless insistence that greater attention has to be given to the wishes of the individual service user/customer (ibid).

The basic principles for reinventing government are

  • steering rather than rowing, empowering rather than serving, injecting competition into service delivery, transforming rule-driven organizations, funding outcomes, meeting the needs of the customers, not the bureaucracy, earning rather than spending, from hierarchy to participation and teamwork, and leveraging change through the market.

The influence of NPM and reinventing government has been quite significant.

The extent of this influence can be seen in the emergence and acceptance of several new terms in public administration literature and practice that have earned a prominent place in the agenda of public sector reformers who are in favor of good governance.

NPM and reinventing government prescriptions are increasingly influencing the policies of developed and developing countries. One of the direct outcomes of the impact of NPM and reinventing government initiatives is that the role of public administration has been propelled to undergo significant transformation in many developed and developing countries.

Consequently, the responsibilities of public administration and those of the government’s executive branch are confined to facilitating, leading, and catalyzing changes to achieve more with limited financial resources and fewer personnel.

Many clear and unambiguous influences of both NPM and reinventing government can be discerned in the public sector. Public administration now has to boldly address several issues that will surely bring about changes in its functions.

Many, as an entrepreneurial manager whose job is to attain cost-effectiveness, are now viewed as a public administrator. So, he/she must have the necessary flexibility and freedom of action not found in the strictly traditional hierarchical systems.

Cost-effectiveness cannot be achieved without emphasis on results and focus on performance measurement, monitoring, and evaluation. Cost reduction entails that the public sector will only perform those activities that it is specially required to do.

Withdrawal of government from many activities will require more private sector involvement and utilization of such methods as privatization and outsourcing.

Narrowing the scope of operations will enable the public sector to focus more clearly on core tasks and develop competencies in these. Street-level public administrator’s decision-making role has been emphasized so that he/she can serve the clientele better.

Empowering citizens has been a key component of the recent reform wave surrounding public administration. It has been argued that citizens have been largely denied access to quality services due to the existence of cumbersome bureaucratic rules and regulations.

In recent years, new responsibility mechanisms have been put in place by which public administrators have ‘direct responsibility for their conduct.’

This new responsibility entails that a whole new range of mechanisms have come into force to review and correct decisions of public administrators. This newly emerging doctrine of administrative responsibility goes well beyond the bounds of public administration to the broad field of governance’ (Spigelman, 1999).

The recent thinking revolves around the fact that business principles need to be introduced and effectively adhered to in conducting public business.

This particular line of thinking is ‘concerned with the economics rather than the politics of service provision, emphasizes government failure rather than market failure, and is skeptical about the capacity of bureaucracy to provide services efficiently and effectively’ (Boyne, 1996).

It has been stated by NPM and reinventing government advocates ‘that government should adopt not only business administration techniques but also business values’ (DeLeon and Denhardt, 2000).

Another disturbing trend pertaining to public administration is the rejection of core concepts like public spirit and public service by the supporters of public choice (Kamensky, 1996). The consequences of such a situation are indeed serious.

Adherence to this particular thinking has, on the one hand, led to major reforms in some developed countries, including New Zealand, the UK, and the USA, where political advice was separated from policy implementation, and, on the other, it has led to altering the purposes of civil service profession (UN, 2001).

Promoting and sustaining professional ethics among public administrators continue to be a key concern of NPM advocates.

There have been attempts to fundamentally transform the style of public management to put the people first as valued customers.

For this to happen, public administrators need to be more focused on achieving results and be entrepreneurial in their style of operation. The UK government has adopted a strategy in this line that compels public officials to make a number of commitments.

These include developing policies to deliver results that matter, delivering efficient and high-quality public services to meet the needs of citizens, using new technology to cater to the needs of citizens and businesses, and valuing public service.

In the area of performance management, the past decade has witnessed significant changes in the public sector in some highly developed countries.

The performance management and inspection system in the UK has been overhauled and is now based on four principles. These are encouraging the systems approach, assessing what is being delivered, intervening in inverse proportion to success, and using the right information at the right level (Ibid.).

All these principles are intended to focus on assessing improvements and value for money of a whole system, keep a tight rein on the management of resources, give greater freedom to innovate where needed, and encourage managers to use performance measures to monitor and improve their organizations.

In Canada, strong policy capacity and non-partisan professionalism are considered the prerequisites for quality performance and quality service delivery (UN, 2001).

New Zealand’s approach to reform, on the other hand, a morally radical one and based on NPM prescriptions, has de-linked service delivery from policy advice, employing non-tenured executives on a fixed term — with scope for retention, performance contracting, and annual purchase agreements (Davis, Sullivan, and Yeatman, 1997).

In the USA, standard-setting, benchmarking, and emphasis on measuring, monitoring, and evaluating performance have been developed during the past decade’ (UN, 2001).

There is, thus, a need to focus on reforms and innovations initiated by different countries across the world for a comprehensive assessment. Generally speaking, the changes in the countries concerned are fundamentally altering existent public administration systems.

Quality Service Delivery

Service Quality Initiatives (SQIs) are now common features in all Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and Asian countries.

The focus of SQIs has assumed prominence because of resource or budget pressures, focus on improving service quality to reduce costs or do more with less, and a more demanding public that wants better services and a greater say in what services are provided.

The reasons could also;

  • relate to the recognition that a more responsive, innovative, and efficient public sector will enhance overall economic performance, apply pressure to enhance the legitimacy and transparency of government through the specification of individual citizen’s entitlements to services, and increase the quality of access to services; usher in new technological possibilities to improve service quality and changes in management theory in the private sector, which would be as relevant to and transferable to public sector management.

In Malaysia, to maintain the quality of services, a number of measures, including Total Quality Management (TQM), counter services, and citizens’ charters, have already been implemented (Khan, 1998b). These measures are intended to provide customers with fast, accurate, and courteous services regularly.

In Singapore, several initiatives have been launched over the years to maintain a high standard of quality service. In recent years, the ‘PS 21’ has been the core of providing high-quality services.

A directory of public services, counter allowance, a personal training road map, and setting of service standards have all contributed towards achieving Singapore’s goal of quality service delivery (Khan, 1998a). In Greece, a number of actions have been taken to improve the quality of services to serve the people better.

These include simplifying administrative procedures, giving legal weight to electronic communication, and establishing charters of citizens’ rights (Khan, 2000).

The French government’s Ministry of Infrastructure has instructed each of its local offices to create a customer relations function to develop, promote, and coordinate measures to improve responsiveness to the users.

The Government of Denmark has initiated a number of measures to develop quality management in the public sector. One of the outcomes of such efforts has resulted in the formation of an Evaluation Committee for Public Sector Quality Award (Ibid.).

The UK government has created a Performance and Innovation Unit (PTU). The PIU aims to improve the effectiveness of the government in the implementation of service delivery mechanisms by working with departments and others on cross-cutting and innovative projects (Focus, 1999).

In Norway, a user orientation program has been established to improve user orientation and the level of service.

Under this program, each agency is responsible for obtaining feedback from users on service quality, setting and publishing quality standards, and ensuring that the service level is constantly improved (Focus, 1998). Canada has instituted a one-stop access to information and services (Kaul, 1998).

Enhancing ICT Use

It has been suggested that the ‘introduction of Information and Communication Technology applications (ICTs) through their control, surveillance, communications, and knowledge management potential are revolutionizing the internal workings and external relationships of public administration’ (Snellen, 2002). The revolutionary effects of ICT can be seen in many countries.

Developed as well as newly developed countries are spending heavily on Information Technology (IT).

The USA and Canada are investing exorbitant sums in computer-related upgrades and new purchases. In both Canada and the USA, the Internet has proved to be extremely popular and useful for electronic service delivery.

Downloading information regarding various government activities has now become a regular and frequent occurrence.

Websites are posted with more and more information.

Citizens can now pay their taxes, register their vehicles, and receive licenses and permits through the Internet. Interest in e-government has gone up in the UK in recent years, especially with the introduction of the UK Online in the latter part of the year 2000. The UK Online Portal offers even at this early stage a high profile and convenient electronic route into all public services.

Once fully operational, ‘it should provide access to a wide range of information and services that will be available through several different channels, including information kiosks, call centers, XLs, digital TV, and 3G phones’ (Bellamy, 2002).

Norway launched a three-year action plan between 1999 and 2001 to strengthen e-government in the country.

Some of the important priority areas include establishing a coherent national IT infrastructure for the public service, providing information services on the Internet, focusing on electronic data interchange, setting up electronic commerce for public procurement, and facilitating electronic administrative procedures (Focus, 1999).

In Italy, a unified electronic network has been set up for government operations. This will create efficiency gains and reduce burdens on citizens and companies (Focus, 1998). The Singapore government now has its own Website. The Internet provides many services.

Malaysia has also made inroads into the IT arena, enabling its citizens’ services through the Internet. The Indian government has undertaken a number of policy initiatives to introduce e-governance at all levels — federal, state, and local.

The introduction of e-governance has brought significant changes in the citizen-administration relations in the arena of service delivery in terms of higher speed, greater access, less cost, and less public harassment. Japan revised its basic plan for promoting administrative information in late 1997 to utilize advanced information technologies to respond to people’s needs more effectively.

Public-Private Exchange and Interaction

In many countries, public-private sector exchange and interaction are now familiar concepts. In the UK, interchange schemes between two sectors have existed for years.

Secondments and joint training programs have enriched personnel development and enabled both sectors to respond to common challenges in project management and customer service (Focus, 1997).

In Australia and New Zealand, ‘marketization has been accepted as having general application to all parts of the public sector’ (Halligan, 1997).

In both these countries, contractualism, competition, and contestability are now familiar mechanisms that reduce the scope of the public sector and increase dependence on the private (Khan, 2002).

In New Zealand, State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) are expected to perform like corporations and ‘demonstrate comparable performance in terms of efficiency and productivity’.

In Australia, the government has opted for the private sector model by going for a deregulated personnel system, restricting public service to policy development, implementing legislation, oversight of service delivery, and contestability of delivery of services with increasing utilization of private business (Halligan, op.cit.).

In Hong Kong, reforms have led to the privatization of a number of government services, contracting out on a wider scale, promotion of divestiture, and transformation of civil servants from administrators to better managers (Cheung, 1996).

In Malaysia, the Malaysia Incorporated Policy (MIP) is based on the philosophy of close cooperation, collaboration, and joint action between the government and industry (Commonwealth Secretariat, 1995).

In Singapore, members of the elite administrative service are attached to private companies to get a clear picture of the working conditions in the private sector and to understand how government rules and regulations affect the private sector (Khan, 1998a).

Performance Management

The mid-1990s adopted clear and explicit performance management programs in many OECD countries, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and the USA.

The programs have been put in place to focus on closely and target activities toward desired results.

One of the variants of performance management is a performance contract, which is now widely used in OECD countries in order to make administration ‘responsive, accountable, and efficient’ (Brumby, 1999).

The US Federal government utilizes another variant, known as the performance review, to heighten accountability and improve focus on overall objectives (Shafritz and Russell, op.cit.).

Performance management initiatives have also been implemented in some Asian countries, most notably in Singapore, concentrating on institutional reforms, changes in procedures, and attitudes of public employees. All these are intended to raise productivity at a lower cost.


Naturally, it is not a comprehensive survey. The discussion above focuses on PA’s context, lessons, and challenges in the twenty-first century and shows the overwhelming urge to respond effectively to change. Change is not new, as it has been a part of human existence for a long time.

However, what would be new is the tremendous pace of change and corresponding rise of expectations on the part of customers.

So, undertaking far-reaching reforms regularly in public administration would not be a luxury but a dire necessity. Its resilience to diagnose change trends and devise timely and suitable mechanisms and processes to cope with and prosper in such an environment would lend credibility to public administration in years to come.

Any discussion of public administration in an age of globalization is bound to be extensive and wide-ranging. It is, therefore, not possible to deliberate on all aspects of the relationship between public administration and globalization.

However, with the limited scope of the foregoing discussion, some trends have been clearly discernible. The impact of globalization on public administration is distinctly clear. The nature and extent of such an impact though has not been the same for all the countries.

Developed countries, as opposed to developing ones, have been able to reap many benefits from globalization.

The concepts and mechanisms that have come up as a result of globalization have originated in developed countries and are more suited to their social, political, economic, and cultural milieu.

These concepts and mechanisms, like NPM and reinventing government, which are based on Western precepts, face problems of implementation even in modified forms in vastly different non-Western contexts. The economic dimension continues to be the most critical element in understanding the effects of globalization on public administration.

Privatizing public services, rightsizing the government, attaining and maintaining efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency in public service delivery, and ensuring cost-effectiveness and enhanced productivity are the hallmarks of recent developments that intend to change how public managers think, act, and respond.

In this changed scenario, public managers are to be transformed into public entrepreneurs.

They have to be empowered with freedom and flexibility in their actions so that they become capable of delivering in a highly complex and diverse environment.

The outlook and attitudes of public administrators should change so that they can put all their efforts into satisfying the needs of the citizens, who are perceived as customers. Their voice is important in terms of the quality of services delivered.

This also means that the traditional, hierarchical, rule-bound, and technicist approach to public administration is to give way to modern, participatory, people-oriented, and competitive systems.

Though many key issues like service delivery, information technology, and performance management dominate any discussion on globalization and public administration, various ethical issues remain under-emphasized. Recent interest in anti-corruption measures is an exception to this trend.

The public sector in many countries has failed to cope with the requirements of globalization due to the non-existence of and, in many cases, non-adherence to ethical code of conduct in public dealings.

The politics-administration interface still remains a hazy area. There could arise several grey areas if the public managers are to be given autonomy and segments of the public sector are to be hived off to the private sector.

But again, at the end of the day, the politicians in power are to be held responsible for the actions of appointed public servants and private entrepreneurs. Political responsibility in critical areas still remains a thorny issue against the backdrop of public-private exchange and interactions.

These issues need to be debated thoroughly in order to utilize the benefits of globalization. The Western administrative concepts have to be clearly comprehended and applied as per the contextual demands. Public administration has to transform, innovate, and adapt to these changing trends.