The driving forces of reform
Over the past five years the MENA region has made a strong commitment to the reform of public governance. What have been the driving forces behind these reforms? Many MENA governments cite the need to attract investment and support economic growth as their primary motivation, based on growing recognition that weak public governance can pose a major barrier to private sector growth. Dissatisfaction with the comparatively weak growth performance of the region compared to other developing regions has also fuelled this response. Other governments have cited the need to combat corruption and state-building objectives as primary drivers for their comprehensive governance reform programme. The growing use of international rankings and greater collaboration with international conventions (such as World Trade Organisation membership) have also highlighted areas of governance needing attention, motivating and assisting governments to take action on a broad front.
This report reviews achievements in implementing public governance reforms in nine areas: human resource management, public finance, integrity, regulation and law drafting, administrative simplification, e-government, public-private partnerships, gender, and water resource management. Each area of reform is treated through a discussion of overall strategies and country case studies (listed in Annex A) profiling achievements in the first decade of the 21st century, and particularly the past five years.
Chapter 1 examines the overall strategies used by MENA governments to pursue reform, drawing on the rich experience contained in the nine chapters that follow. This review finds that two governmental poles have typically led these reform programmes across the region. Overall leadership has come from the prime ministers’ offices, with technical support from two specialised units attached to the prime ministry: ministries of public sector reform (a common feature of regional governments) and civil service bureaus. Despite tackling a broad agenda with very limited personnel and few if any operations outside the capital, these units have played key strategic, co-ordination and monitoring roles.
Finance ministries have also played a key role in reform implementation. As a major line agency with countrywide operations and day-to-day involvement with other central government agencies, ministries of finance have a strategic overview of government, both horizontally and vertically. Supported by generally strong management teams and greater operational flexibility than other line ministries, they have become centres for experimentation and innovation, even in non-financial areas such as outsourcing, public-private partnerships, e-government and personnel management.
While reform strategies have naturally varied across countries in the region, they generally emphasise four pillars of public governance: policy-making capacities, public finance, human resource management and the rule of law. In reforms to each of these areas, governments have taken different approaches with differing results. Although it is impossible to generalise about such a diverse region, one overall impression from the case studies is that the most effective approaches have included consultation with internal and external stakeholders, experimentation to test innovations followed by a gradual, decentralised approach to implementation. These have tended to outperform top-down, centralised and non-participatory approaches. Value-based methods, such as developing codes of conduct, have also helped, when combined with stakeholder consultation and participation in implementation. Sustained leadership and determination in the face of the inevitable barriers have also been key to success in the MENA, as in other regions.
Chapter 3: Improving the management of public finances
Chapter 4: Fostering integrity in the public sector
Chapter 5: Ensuring high quality regulation
Chapter 7: Achievements in e-government