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International Handbook of Public Management Reform

International Handbook of Public Management Reform

Elgar original reference

Edited by Shaun Goldfinch and Joe L. Wallis

This major Handbook provides a state-of-the-art study of the recent history and future development of international public management reform.

Chapter 17: Public Management Reform in Norway: Reluctance and Tensions

Tom Christensen and Per Lægreid

Subjects: economics and finance, public sector economics, politics and public policy, public policy


Tom Christensen and Per Lægreid Introduction Like most other Scandinavian countries Norway has been a reluctant new public management (NPM) reformer (Olsen 1996). This is attributable to a combination of several factors: historically, Norway’s political-administrative culture has been rather collectively oriented, attaching great importance to Rechtsstaat values and equality and rather less to the individualism and efficiency that have been prominent features of modern reforms (Christensen 2003). During recent decades the environmental pressure on Norway to engage in public reform has increased slightly but altogether remained rather low, reflecting a healthy economic situation and a well-functioning public apparatus. In addition, nearly three decades of minority government have not created favorable conditions for furthering reform. Taken together, these factors produce a context that is not conducive to any strong public management reform path. Even though Norway has been a reluctant NPM reformer, it has nonetheless been influenced by international reform waves. In the mid-1980s, when the NPM reform wave was already under way in New Zealand and Australia, Norway introduced two reform programs that at least reflected NPM rhetoric, while the 1990s brought gradual reforms in the central government apparatus (Christensen and Lægreid 2001b). The non-socialist parties pushed for public reform rather early in the 1980s, but not very aggressively. The Labour Party moved to the right on questions of administrative policy, accepting a gradual NPM course, but was unable to capitalize on this in the polls. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) increasingly put pressure on...

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