Reinventing the Third World State
New Horizons in Public Policy series
Edited by Willy McCourt and Martin Minogue
Chapter 3: Administrative reform in core civil services: application and applicability of the new public management
Charles Polidano The new public management has come to dominate thinking about public sector reform by practitioners and academics alike. Some have hailed it as a new paradigm (Osborne and Gaebler, 1992; Borins, 1994; Hughes, 1998). New public management reforms, it is said, are a common response to common pressures - public hostility to government, shrinking budgets and the imperatives of globalization. Countries are becoming more alike in their style of public management, just as they are becoming more alike in other ways. There are differing interpretations of what that common response consists of. But there is general agreement that key components include the deregulation of line management; the conversion of civil service departments into free-standing agencies or enterprises; performance-based accountability, particularly through contracts; and competitive mechanisms such as contracting out and internal markets (Aucoin, 1990; Hood, 1991). Various authors also include privatization and downsizing as part of the package (Ingraham, 1996; Minogue, 1998). There has been a long-drawn-out, ideologically charged debate about the merits and demerits of the new public management, or NPM as it is commonly known. The debate tends to focus on the desirability or otherwise of NPM reforms in principle. Advocates and critics alike often accept the assumption that the new public management is universal, notwithstanding that this is disputed by a growing body of work.l The universality assumption is encouraged by the undoubted fact that NPM catch-phrases feature prominently in the vocabulary of civil service reform all around the world (Thomas, 1996). Now as always,...
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