International Handbook of Public Management Reform
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International Handbook of Public Management Reform

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.
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Chapter 14: Senior Civil Servants and Bureaucratic Change in Belgium

Guido Dierickx


Guido Dierickx Slow starters, fast runners? The last fundamental overhaul of the Belgian Civil Service occurred in 1937. This ‘Camu reform’, so called after its principal author, shaped the Belgium Civil Service up to the 1990s (Molitor 1974). Its (not entirely deserved) prestige as the paragon of administrative, Weberian rationality can explain its staying power to some extent. And yet, why was this reform more or less successful, while many later attempts were not? In the late 1930s, the Belgian political system had to face the rise of an extreme right that sympathized with the new regime in neighboring Germany. Reforming the Civil Service, on which the daily lives of so many citizens (and voters) depended, seemed a good way to cope with the rise of voter dissatisfaction and, consequently, of undemocratic forces. If extensive reform proposals were taken seriously once again in the 1990s, it is largely for similar reasons. Trust in government and in the governing elites appeared to have sunk exceptionally low. Perhaps a greater degree of Civil Service friendliness towards customers could contribute to disarming their hostility to the political elites and their inclination to vote for extremist parties. Of course, to fully explain the recent breakthrough of the reform movement, other factors have to be taken into account as well. The fiscal crisis of the state was particularly pressing in a country eager to join the European Monetary Union but burdened with the highest accumulated public debt per capita of all the member states of...

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