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.