Since the restoration of independence in 1991, Estonia has met the challenge of establishing a fully functional, stable, and modern state. This review looks at how, building on its significant accomplishments to date, the Estonian public administration can work together as a single government to improve and sustain service delivery to citizens and to meet new challenges on the horizon.
This is the third book in the series of comprehensive public governance reivews. These reviews help countries to identify how reforms can better reinforce each other in support of overall government objectives. They also examine reform strategies that have been successful in other countries and provide advice as to which reforms can be appropriately adapted to a given country context.
Towards a single government approach
A whole-of-government approach, where horizontal co-ordination and integration are embedded in the process of policy design and implementation, helps a government respond to complexity. While Estonia has enjoyed almost 20 years of growth, in the near future, public resources are likely to remain flat or decline as in most other OECD countries. In such a context, Estonia needs to maximise limited human and financial resources by building innovative capacity and improving the flexibility and responsiveness of its public administration so that the different parts of the public sector – including the state and sub-national government – can work as a single government to realise objectives and to prepare for new challenges.
Developing a common agenda
Identifying a common agenda that business and society can support provides a roadmap for achieving a single government approach. Building such an agenda will help Estonia’s government balance its values with societal preferences, set objectives and priorities strategically, better understand the costs and benefits associated with specific policy programmes, and evaluate them consistently with agreed upon objectives. In this way, the public administration can optimise the use of its resources.
Delivering public services effectively
Estonia faces a series of interconnected challenges to delivering high-quality public services. At the central level, the government is moving to consolidate “back-office” operations for its county governments, and there is an experiment underway to rationalise “front-office” activity by merging all local State representation into one physical working environment. At the local level, however, the lack of standards, performance measures, and the mismatch between fiscal capacity and devolved responsibilities places great pressure on service provision by local governments. Estonia cannot ignore this issue, and will need to take an integrated and innovative perspective when developing solutions.