Strategic Capacity


How much influence do strategic planning units and bodies have on government decision-making?

Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions, and they exercise strong influence on government decision-making.
The amount of strategic thinking in Danish government administration varies across different ministries. It also depends on the decision-making style of the ministry head. Major reforms in Denmark are usually prepared through committees or commissions established to produce a report outlining issues and options. In recent years, a number of major commissions have been appointed, including Strukturkommissionen (infrastructural commissions), Velfærdskommissionen (welfare commissions), Arbejdsmarkedskommissionen (labor market commissions) and Skattekommissionen (tax commissions). Recently, the commission on unemployment insurance submitted its report. In addition, it is quite common to appoint expert groups to prepare inputs for important policy discussions and reforms. The members can be experts, representatives of organizations or civil servants. Moreover, professionalism in ministries has increased.

More overarching strategic policy plans or documents with a strong focus on economic policy in recent years have been the government’s 2010 plan, 2015 plan and 2020 plan; a 2025 plan is awaited. The latter is linked with the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy. It sets national targets for employment, R&D, climate and energy, education, and social inclusion. It also identifies challenges in areas of growth, demography, productivity, competition, education, reduced use of fossil fuels and household debt.

An important part of the government’s National Reform Program for 2014 is modernization of the public sector, including digitization by 2020. Every company received a digital mailbox in November 2013. In November 2014, this public service was extended to every citizen.

It should be noted that government policies traditionally have been consensus-driven. This applies both to parliament, as most governments have been minority governments, and in relation to negotiations involving organizations and the political system, most notably in relation to labor market issues.
Niels Ejersbo og Carsten Greve, Modernisering af den offentlige sektor. Copenhagen: Børsen, 2005.

The Danish Government, Denmark’s National Reform Programme. May 2011. (accessed 20 April 2013).

The National Reform Programme Denmark 2014.
Strategic planning has considerable influence on government decision-making. The strategic goals contained in the government program are recorded in specific government-strategy documents. These strategy documents cover a one-year period and include a plan for pursuing priority goals, a notice of intent for upcoming key decisions and indicators for evaluating government performance. The implementation of the government program is assessed by a report halfway through the cabinet’s tenure, which defines how strategic goals should be attained through the rest of the cabinet’s time in office. The Prime Minister’s Office assists the prime minister and the government in their work, and is also responsible for the planning of social policy legislation that does not fall within the competence of any other ministry. The government often launches policy programs to ensure its key objectives are met. Meanwhile, the preparation and monitoring of programs is delegated to ministerial groups. In addition, the Committee for the Future deals with future-related matters. As a former entrepreneur, Prime Minister Sipilä has given the government program an even more strategic turn. For some of its policy objectives, the government utilizes trial projects to assess reform impacts. The basic income trial project, which is currently in the planning stages in an advisory committee, and will possibly be run in 2017 – 2018, is an example of this kind of new strategic evidence-based planning.
Although the United Kingdom has one of the most centralized political systems and is one of the long-established liberal democracies in the world, the resources directly available to the prime minister are relatively limited compared with those available to other heads of government. Formally, there is no prime ministerial department to provide strategic planning or advice, although the Cabinet Office provides an important coordinating role across government and its head, the cabinet secretary, attends cabinet meetings. The cabinet secretary is also the head of the civil service, after the two roles were separated under the previous coalition government. A substantial effort has been made since 2010 to modernize the civil service, including its strategic capacity, with a cabinet-level minister taking the lead. A civil-service reform plan was launched in 2012 and will be led by the Cabinet Office under the new government. Establishing policymaking as a profession is one of the stated goals, a task that will have potentially long-term consequences for steering capability and strategic capacity.

At a political level, a special advisory unit has supported all recent prime ministers. Camilla Cavendish, a former journalist and think-tank staff member, has led the current unit, Number 10 Policy Unit, since shortly after the May 2015 general election. Special advisers and civil servants staff these advisory units. The remit of Number 10 Policy Unit is defined by the prime minister, but tends to focus on strategic political and policy decisions. 

In 2012, the prime minster and deputy prime minister established a dedicated Implementation Unit within the Cabinet Office, charged with driving implementation in areas deemed to be of high priority, and this has now been reinforced by the creation of implementation task forces to oversee the delivery of policy initiatives. All government departments have been required by the new government to produce single departmental plans, which serve both to define their strategic objectives, and to enable them to be monitored more effectively.


Institute for Government (2014) Whitehall Monitor 2014 A data-driven analysis of the size, shape and performance of Whitehall

Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Their influence on government decision-making is systematic but limited in issue scope or depth of impact.
Neither the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) nor the Privy Council Office (PCO) has an official planning unit today. The Policy Research Initiative (PRI), established in 1997 under the PCO to promote and organize horizontal research within the federal government, could potentially have developed a strategic-planning function. However, this unit has not reported through the PCO since 2007. Recently, PRI’s name was changed to Policy Horizons and its budget reduced. Given the uncertainties and unpredictability of the modern world at both the national and international level, many consider long-term strategic planning suspect, or at least not a priority, and hence an inappropriate use of limited resources. Nevertheless, there are thousands of public servants employed by the PCO, the Department of Finance and the Treasury Board (close to 3,000 individuals in all) who have no specific program responsibility. Their purpose is to manage politically sensitive files and to plan. Therefore, some argue that the planning capacity of the government of Canada is as strong as that of other Western countries, and in some cases even stronger.
In December 2011, Latvia established a new central government planning unit, the Cross-Sectoral Coordination Center (Pārresoru koordinācijas centrs, PKC). The PKC’s mandate was to develop a long-term strategic approach to public policymaking, while also monitoring decision-making to ensure that public policies are effective. The PKC also monitors ministries’ progress toward meeting the government’s stated goals, as outlined in the government declaration.

To date, the PKC has produced the National Development Plan, monitored progress toward the Latvia 2030 framework and established an active role for itself in decision-making, contributing to policy debates on a range of cross-sectoral issues such as demographics and income disparities. The PKC reviews all proposals discussed by the cabinet and provides weekly briefings for the prime minister on substantive issues pending discussion by the cabinet. In 2015, the PKC’s mandate was expanded to include a coordinating role in the management of state-owned enterprises.

In addition to the PKC’s core government role and despite a reduction in departmental units and staff numbers, most ministries have retained some independent planning capacity. Ministerial planning units engage with the PKC early in policy development. However, the PKC is understaffed and cannot participate in the policy-development processes of all line ministries. Indeed, the PKC has been criticized for becoming mired in the details of policy planning, effectively duplicating the work of ministries while failing to provide the cross-sectoral, meta-approach expected of it.

A leadership change within the State Chancellery in the fall of 2015 indicates that a reassessment of strategic-planning roles within the government core may be on the agenda in 2016.
The Cross-Sectoral Coordination Centre, Information Available at (in Latvian):, Last assessed: 31.10.2014
Lithuania’s strategic-planning system was introduced in 2000 and has been updated several times since. At the central level of government, the planning system involves all stages (planning, monitoring and evaluation) of managing strategic and operational performance. The main strategic documents include the long-term Lithuania 2030 strategy and the medium-term National Progress Program, which is in turn linked to short-term strategic-performance plans and budget programs. The planning system in general is well-institutionalized; its functioning is supported by a network of strategic-planning units within each ministry and a governmental Strategic Committee that was reintroduced in 2013 by the current government. In addition, strategic issues are regularly discussed during meetings of government members or ministerial representatives. A State Progress Council composed of politicians, public and civil servants, academics, businesspeople and other representatives of Lithuanian society was established to help design the Lithuania 2030 strategy and monitor its implementation. Its composition was updated after the new government was appointed, and meetings are held on a regular basis.

Although these strategic and advisory bodies take a long-term approach and offer viable policy solutions, their influence on governmental decision-making in fact varies by specific issue. There is a certain gap between the long-term policy aims contained in various strategic documents and the actual practices of individual public-sector organizations. In addition, politically important decisions are sometimes made without due consideration of strategic priorities and performance-monitoring results, with strategic-planning documents and performance reports often playing little role in daily decision-making processes.
The Mexican president is required by law to produce a strategic plan his first year in office. At a lower level, there are quite a few planning units within the Mexican government, though they do not all have decisive input into the policymaking process. At worst, planning can create opportunities for a kind of middle-class clientelism.

Planning in Mexico was at its heyday in the 1980s, with no fewer than three planning ministers moving up to become presidents of Mexico. In more general terms, a “passion for planning” was not only a phenomenon of the 1980s, but stems from the origins of the Institutional Revolutionary Party regime and its corporatist structures with a mixed economy. For a couple of reasons, the role of planning entities declined in the mid-1990s. It was at least partly the result of Mexico becoming a market economy, and also because planning itself was a failure during this period, as Mexico was too bound to international economic trends to make its own decisions. However, as in several other countries in Latin America, planning has become more popular once again. The major challenge to planning in Mexico and Latin America consists in creating sufficiently tight links between the agencies responsible for the planning and the implementing agencies. In this regard, it could be argued that conditions for planning were reasonably favorable in the recent past, because no major policy transformations were underway. By contrast, the implementation of several highly significant recent reforms will put Mexico’s planning skills to the test.
New Zealand
The core executive in New Zealand is organized according to new-public-management approaches and methods. Most importantly, contracts are negotiated between ministers and chief executives in a large number of departments and ministries. With a large number of government departments and 28 ministers, most of them responsible for a number of portfolios, taking a whole-of-government approach to policy development can be complex and time-consuming. Recent governments have reacted to concerns about fragmentation by recentralizing the steering capacity of the core executive. The most important government departments involved in strategic planning and policy formation are the central agencies of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), the State Services Commission (SSC) and the Treasury. All contracts (performance agreements and departmental statements of intent) support a cooperative and whole-of-government policy approach, though evaluation of the performance assessment of chief executives has a strong focus on departmental achievements. The National Party-led government in the review period decided to seek substantial efficiency reforms without a major reorganization of public sector departments and ministries. This has led to various initiatives, such as greater rationalization and coordination with respect to back-office functions (such as IT, payroll and procurement) with a view to achieving savings which can be shifted to delivering frontline services. Since chief executives are on contract and employ staff, these changes can occur only with their support and cannot be imposed on individual departments.

Developing strategies to enhance public sector performance management has been progressing for some time. Since the government has imposed a cap on the size of the state sector, these measures are aimed at securing greater efficiency, effectiveness and performance across the sector. The most recent initiative is the Better Public Services (BPS) program, which aims at building efficient and effective public services by emphasizing outputs, strengthening leadership across the system, and providing better services and greater value for money.

The prime minister can draw on only moderate strategic-planning capacity (in the form of a policy-advisory group) vis-à-vis ministers. Ad hoc groups, often including some outside expertise, are increasingly used to complement government agencies’ policy-advisory function.
Annual Report for the Year Ended 30 June 2014 (Wellington: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet 2014).
Better Public Services: (accessed November 28, 2014).
Performance Improvement Framework: (accessed October 9, 2014).
Six Dimensions of System Performance (Wellington: State Services Commission 2013).
State Services Commission: Annual Report for the Year Ended 30 June 2013 (Wellington: State Services Commission 2013).
The Capability Toolkit – A Tool to Promote and Inform Capability Management (Wellington: The Government of New Zealand 2008).
The strategic capacity of government has been enhanced over the past few years. Much of that capacity is found in the Department of Finance where most of the long-term planning takes place. The main role of the Prime Minister’s Office is not so much long-term planning but more coordination within government.

A case in the point is the so-called “future commission” which presented its final report in early 2013. In the final report, the commission assesses the economic and social changes that are likely to shape the Swedish society in the longer term. Exactly how the commission’s findings will flow into the policy process is yet to be seen. The commission is not an institutionalized feature of the normal policy process, but was a group of experts the government appointed to look into the long-term issues. The creation of the commission does signal the government is thinking in the longer term.

In addition to these planning efforts in the government departments, the agencies are also engaged in planning. They are not operating in close proximity to the departments, however. The exception to this pattern is when a department asks one of its agencies to look into a particular issue and to prepare advice on policy-initiatives.

The previous government invested considerable energy to increase the coordination among government departments and to provide better steering of the executive agencies.

Historically, policy planning has been achieved to a large extent by the use of Royal Commissions. Most of these Commissions were composed of elected officials and stakeholders. During the past decade or so, the quality of these Commissions – particularly with regard to the quality of the studies they deliver and their capacity to generate consensus among major political actors and stakeholders as to policy goals and means – has deteriorated. Many Commissions today have very few members and are often dominated by civil servants. This had a negative impact on the Commissions’ final reports and the quality of the advice they produce.
Svenska framtidsutmaningar. Slutrapport från regeringens framtidskommission (2013) (Stockholm: Statsrådsberedningen) (

Garsten, C., B. Rothstein and S. Svallfors (2015), Makt utan mandat: de policyprofessionella i svensk politik (Stockholm: Dialogos).
The U.S. government has multiple units that analyze policy issues, and that make long-term projections as part of the assessment of current options. The Executive Office of the President has multiple staffs and analytic agencies. On the legislative side, the Congressional Budget Office analyzes the 10-year fiscal impact of all bills with budget implications. Expertise about long-term considerations is available in abundance, in the agencies, Congress, and the White House. Policymakers may enact policies that incorporate a long-term schedule of changes. The main barrier to coherent long-term planning is the constitutional separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches, along with frequent elections. By design, no individual or cohesive group controls policy for a long enough period to formulate and implement long-term plans.
The Commonwealth public service makes extensive use of committees to undertake strategic planning, and these committees’ activities generally peak immediately before and after the transition to a new government, and in the pre-budget period. The public service also maintains a single department, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, with the aim of coordinating and directing strategic planning across the government as a whole.

The Labor government elected in 2007 was, under Prime Minister Rudd, characterized by increased emphasis on strategic planning. It commissioned numerous reviews, inquiries and committees in 2008 on a range of policy domains, including pensions, taxes and climate change. It also emphasized a “whole of government” approach to policymaking and service delivery. This new approach was reflected in a detailed set of recommendations in a discussion paper, “Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration,” which was prepared by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The paper contained 28 recommendations focused mainly around the provision of effective service delivery, strategic planning, and creating a skilled and responsive public service. However, after some initial reform activity in 2010 and 2011, there has been little reform. This shift can at least in part be attributed to a difference in priorities for Prime Minister Gillard, who replaced Rudd as prime minister in 2010. The coalition government elected in September 2013 rationalized the number of government departments and agencies shortly after coming into office, and in May 2014 announced plans to abolish 230 bureaucratic programs and 70 government bodies and reduce the number of public service employees by 16,500 over three years. The plans had not been fully implemented as of the end of the review period, and will almost certainly not be fully implemented in the future. While many of the cuts to programs and government bodies have occurred or are in the process of occurring, the implications for strategic planning remain unclear. However, they are unlikely to be positive.

The main weakness of the country’s strategic planning is the absence of a new vision for Australia’s economic development. After the resources boom the country is looking for policy options, but the government has not developed any.
Each minister works closely with a team of collaborators in each ministerial cabinet. Each cabinet is usually large, with as many as 30 to 40 senior staff and experts. Meetings take place often, and the team designs policies in line both with the minister’s objectives and the government agreement. The minister and the advisory team are then responsible for drafting bill projects which are then submitted to the government in weekly meetings.

In terms of long-term planning, the knowledge accumulated by a minister’s collaborators can be lost at the end of a legislative period, as the ministerial team changes with the minister. Moreover, the frequency of staff rotation is generally high. In contrast, public administration is run by civil servants with longer tenures of office, but these groups do not generally take part in strategic ministerial decisions. Long-term planning (beyond a legislative term) is therefore made difficult. The main rationale for relying on the minister’s team instead of civil servants is that the former are the minister’s (and the party’s) close aides and tend to be more flexible in terms of working hours and availability for emergency situations.

The federal Planning Bureau (Bureau du Plan/Planbureau) does play a role in providing longer strategic planning options, but in general it is the ministerial cabinets that are the main movers of legislative efforts.
The president has the power to ask for and ensure strategic planning, whether through formal or informal channels. Line ministries, most notably the Ministry of Finance, and the president’s advisory ministry (the Secretaría General de la Presidencia, Segpres), have considerable influence in strategic-planning processes. Meetings between strategic-planning staff and the head of government are held frequently. However, no long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions is necessarily presented – these are either limited in scope or depth of impact depending on the topic. Strategic planning, policy planning and regulatory reforms, budget planning, and ex ante evaluation of government policies and public-investment programs are carried out by specialist units and departments inside the various ministries. While there is no explicit multi-year budget planning process in place in Chile, this takes place implicitly due to the fiscal rule that (by law) links overall government expenditure to forward-looking estimates of long-term government revenue, based on growth trends and copper-price projections. These forecasts are provided in a transparent way by specialist budgetary commissions comprised of academic and private-sector experts (mostly professional economists).
The introduction of strategic-management tools has just begun in Croatia’s public administration. At the central-government level, strategic planning over the last decade has been dominated by the goal of EU accession. Since joining the EU in 2013, strategic planning capacity has increased substantially, in part due to the learning process that took place during the accession period, but also thanks to Croatia’s inclusion in the EU strategic planning exercise organized within the framework of the European Semester. The most recent examples of improved strategic planning can be found in the National Reform Program which sets out the structural reform measures undertaken by the government to comply with the recommendations of the European Council, and the convergence program of April 2015 which aims to align Croatia’s economic policies with the jointly defined goals and provisions of the EU in the field of microeconomic policy.
Significant strategic planning takes place in the course of governmental decision-making. The Ministry of Finance is a key actor in the long-term planning process, and also presents views during the annual budget cycle on how best to cope with long-term economic challenges and the financing of the welfare state.

The typical procedure for major decisions or reforms entails the following steps: First, the government appoints an ad hoc committee tasked with delivering a detailed report on a particular issue. Some of these committees are composed exclusively of experts, while others have a broader membership that includes politicians and representatives of interested parties such as unions, business confederations and other non-governmental organizations.

For instance, a report to the Ministry of Finance would typically be drafted by high-profile academic economists along with representatives of unions, employers and the central bank. When this procedure leads to legislative action, a proposal is drafted and distributed to interested parties, who are invited to make comments and suggestions (a period of three months for comments is recommended, and six weeks is the minimum period allowed).

Only after comments have been received will the government prepare a proposal for parliament, sometimes in the form of a parliamentary bill, but occasionally only as an initial white paper. Governments deviate from this procedure only in cases of emergency, and any attempt to circumvent it would lead to public criticism.

There is an established procedure for the approval of the annual budget. Activity starts a year in advance, when the government holds three conferences on the budget proposal. The finance minister presents an initial proposal to parliament in the first week of October. A parliamentary committee plays an active role in the budget process, making concrete proposals for the distribution of resources. This proposal becomes the basis of parliamentary discussion. After the parliament approves a proposal for the allocation of resources, it becomes binding for subsequent, more detailed discussions that take place in various parliamentary committees. By December 15, this work is concluded, and the final budget is approved by the full parliament.

The shortcomings in governance that were revealed in the course of the July 22 terrorist attacks and their aftermath have resulted in a general downgrade in the scores associated with executive capacity. However, these shortcomings have been mostly rectified in the past several years.
Since the inauguration of the first Tusk government, Poland has ambitiously sought to improve its strategic-planning capacity, given impetus by EU demands and partly motivated by the objective of improving its absorption and use of EU funds. The planning capacities of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister (Kancelaria Prezesa Rady Ministrów, KPRM) have been expanded, and the previously uncoordinated assortment of sectoral plans have been replaced with a more systematic approach in which a long-term strategy developed by the Chancellery (Poland 2030: The Third Wave of Modernity) establishes a framework for a limited number of medium-term strategies.
OECD, 2013: Public Governance Review Poland: Implementing Strategic-State Capacity. Paris, Chap. 2.
South Korea
Strategic planning remains an important factor in South Korean governance. The office of the president includes a senior secretary and two secretaries for the President for State Affairs. Given the strengthened position of the president and her comfortable majority in parliament, the political context for strategic planning has improved under the Park Geun-hye administration. On the other hand, President Park has often been criticized for her staffing policies, as she has left crucial positions in the administration open for a long time, and many of her choices have failed to make it through the parliamentary vetting process or have had to resign early. Unlike the previous Lee administration, which explicitly avowed a pragmatic pro-business and growth-oriented agenda, the Park Geun-hye administration has shifted priorities toward achieving more general goals including “happiness for the people,” “economic revival” and a “creative economy.” Many policy experts have criticized Park’s capabilities, knowledge and communication style.
Office of the President, Policy Goals, rnment/goals/goals.php
Office of the President, Special Policies, rnment/special/special.php
Office of the President, rnment/office_president/office_pres ident.php
Since 2010, as a consequence of the deep economic crisis, the idea of reinforcing long-term thinking and smarter policymaking has gained momentum in Spain. Several key areas that had not been subject to multiyear plans before the 2000s, including economic policy (structural reforms), security, and external action, are now addressed through strategic documents that receive annual evaluations. Sectoral strategies have been published or announced in the areas of pensions system, human rights and international development cooperation. The government’s central strategic-planning units have been strengthened accordingly. The Prime Minister’s Economic Office – which, among other functions, has been responsible for the National Reform Program under the Europe 2020 Strategy – has clearly become more powerful. In recent years, a new Department of National Security has also been created within the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), and is tasked with developing the country’s National Security Strategy.

Although the momentum behind long-term reforms flagged somewhat during the period under consideration, which fell at the the end of the 2011 – 2015 legislative term and on the eve of new elections, the renewed attention paid to structural reforms and security policy in previous years could lead to lasting improvements in the Spanish government’s strategic-planning capacities, and potentially a long-term strengthening of coordinating bodies linked to the strategic-planning units close to the prime minister. Some of these bodies (such as the National Security Council and the Council of Ministers Committee on Economic Affairs) already hold a fair degree of authority. Others, such as the Foreign Policy Council, ought to become more effective and powerful. In addition to the central policy-planning units, strategic advisors exist in some sectoral ministries (Economy, Defense, Foreign Affairs), but this activity is normally understaffed, and advisors’ access to political decision-makers is limited.
National Reform Programme – European Commission:
The strategic capacity of the Austrian executive is limited by the lack of clear majorities in the federal parliament and in most of the state (provincial) parliaments. With some exceptions, no party can claim to have a mandate to implement a set of policies agreed to by a majority of voters and members of parliament. Rather, coalitions must be formed, a process with clear advantages and clear disadvantages. On the one hand, executive responsibility is blurred, as the presence of too many veto players prevent the development of consistent strategic capacity. On the other, coalitions enable a more inclusive government. Political decision-making in Austria is still characterized by a tendency to prefer a maximum of consensus, even at the price of postponing necessary decisions and shying away from taboos identified with the interests of special groups (such as public service unions or organized agrarian interests).

Strategic-planning units and bodies consisting of public officials do exist within the ministries. The Federal Chancellery can be considered the principal strategic-planning unit, as it is responsible for coordinating the government’s various activities. However, it lacks the specialized personnel that would enable it to work as a comprehensive strategy unit, and has no power to give instructions to other ministries.

After the 2013 general elections, the two biggest parties decided to once again re-establish their coalition government despite electoral losses. As a further decline of their strength in future elections seems likely (which means that the formation of government coalitions of only two parties is becoming increasingly unlikely), the new coalition could have been an opportunity (possibly the last one for the foreseeable future) to create new (i.e., more efficient) structures in the political system that will help the country address emerging challenges. But the governing parties have to date not met expectations in this respect.
The supporting structures of the government in Estonia are mainly located in the line ministries. The Government Office (GO) is quite limited in this respect, though there is a Strategy Unit within the GO, which mainly has a consulting function. Its main tasks are to support the composition of strategic-development plans, to coordinate and draw up the government’s action plan, and monitor the implementation of the above-mentioned policy documents. The unit has limited staff (10 employees) and its low provisioning with resources has been subject to criticism.

A seven-year governmental program intended to improve the quality of policymaking was approved in 2014. In part, this strengthened the role of the Strategy Unit in ex ante impact assessment and long-term forecasting.

In addition to the the Strategy Unit, there is also a Prime Minister’s Bureau, comprised of experts in various policy areas who advise the prime minister. Different from the Strategy Unit, this body is closely linked to the prime minister’s political party and its members change with each new prime minister. Unlike the Strategy Unit, which has a rather weak position, the Prime Minister’s Bureau has a significant impact on government decisions.
There is some evidence that Irish policymakers improved their strategic-planning capacity since the period in the immediate aftermath of the crisis. The annual reports on the Programme for Government detail a more coherent strategic approach to policymaking and increased use of advisory bodies.

However, independent advice is not always followed. Popular pressures for increased spending and tax reductions influenced government decisions in the 2016 budget, reflecting the proximity of a general election. The Fiscal Advisory Council and the Economic and Social Research Institute have urged the government to devote more of the revenue gains arising from the recent economic improvement to a faster reduction of the budget deficit, at the expense of lower taxes and increased spending. However, the imposition of limits on mortgage lending during 2015, intended to moderate the rise in home prices, is a welcome example of unpopular but prudent strategic thinking.
Israel’s government adopted the practice of strategic planning only in the 1990s. Previously government actions were based on practical experience rather than theory, with much improvisation and a policy framework driven by short-term incentives. As a result, the Israeli government did not develop strategic planning units early on, even though a planning division was developed in the Israeli Defense Forces in the early 1970s.

Today, the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office oversees the body’s administrative and policy work. He or she supervises three main planning agencies: the National Economic Council, the National Security Council, and the Policy Planning Department. In 2010 the government formed a committee to investigate internal strategic planning capacities; the results, published in late 2012, identified many structural deficiencies.

In 2011, the government planning guide became a compulsory tool for government offices and agencies to consolidate their strategic planning and work plans. However, the Prime Minister’s Office did not formulate, in accordance with the new guide, detailed work plans in 2012 or 2014 and prepared no work plans in 2013, the year elections for the twentieth Knesset took place. Instead, the main planning agencies and units within the Prime Minister’s Office either prepared only partial work plans or no work plans at all.

While it is unclear whether government planning agencies have access to or can advise the prime minister directly, such agencies do have access to ministries and other government departments as well as to the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office. Government strategic planning bodies take a long-term view when addressing policy challenges and solutions. Their influence on government decision-making, while systematic, is still limited in scope and depth.

There are also no concrete new plan for the government elected in 2015 to address several basic challenges in politics, society and the economy: the Israel-Palestine question, social differentiation and intrasocietal gaps, growing polarization, improving the education system, sustainable economic development in the changing regional and global environment.
Akerman, Lior, “Does Israel have a long-term strategic plan?,” Jerusalem Post, 23.6.2013: (English).

Arlozerov, Meirav,“A strategic planning headquarter will be established in the prime minister’s office; will be incharge of reforms,” TheMarker website, 13.10.2012, (Hebrew).

“A guide for government planning,” The Department for Policy Planning, September 2010 (Hebrew).

“Policy departments - auxiliary tool for navigation,” the Reut institute 11.6.2008. (Hebrew).

Prime Minister’s Office, “Work plans in the Prime Minister’s Office,” State Comptroller Annual report 64c (2015), 287-304 (Hebrew).
The concept of strategic planning is not particularly developed in Italian governmental and administrative culture. This is in part due to the fact that governments have been predominantly preoccupied with coalition problems and that the administration is still very much guided by a legalistic culture. Nevertheless, some progress has been made with recent governments. Recent government programs have been more detailed, and become significant instruments for organizing and planning government activity. Within the government office (called the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, or Presidenza del Consiglio), a special department guided by a minister without portfolio has been created to oversee the implementation of this program. This department produces regular reports on the program’s implementation status. The financial aspect of strategic planning is more developed, as the Treasury has to implement rigorous budgetary stability goals, and works within a triennial perspective. The Renzi government, which features a strong personalization of leadership, does not seem particularly inclined to strengthen the role of strategic planning bodies. However, in 2014 a small team of economic and legal experts was appointed to advise the prime minister on policy strategies.
After the failed attempts of the 2009-2012 DPJ-led coalitions to reform strategic planning in institutional terms, the current LDP-led government has sought to strengthen strategic capacities at the center. It has revived the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, which was used by former Prime Minister Koizumi (2001 – 2006) as a key reform instrument. Moreover, a Headquarters for Japan’s Economic Revitalization was established within the Kantei. It further created an Industrial Competitiveness Council, reporting to the prime minister as well as a Regulatory Reform Council. Several reformers of the Koizumi era have reappeared, including former Reform Minister Heizo Takenaka at the Industrial Competitiveness Council. The Abe-led government tries to use the councils to develop new policy proposals, create a consensus among reform-minded circles (including beyond government) and take them into the public sphere. Given the slow progress of “third arrow” reforms, the outcome thus far does not seem particularly compelling. Nonetheless, the councils have at least contributed in a constructive way to public discourse. For instance, it can already be considered a success that the Regulatory Reform Council in mid-2014 dared to publish recommendations for reforming the Japan Agricultural (JA) Cooperatives, the stronghold of farmers’ traditional interests. The JA system was indeed reformed in early 2015. In mid-2015, the council presented another 180 proposals for regulatory reform.
Cabinet Office, Abstract of “The Third Report by the Council for Regulatory Reform - Toward a Japan Full of Diversity and Vitality,” 16 June 2015, Download available from
The Dutch government has four strategic-planning units. All of these are formally part of a ministry, but their statutes guarantee them independent watchdog and advisory functions.

The Scientific Council for Government Policy (Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid, WRR) advises the government on intersectoral issues of great future importance and policies for the longer term and weak coordination of the work plans of the other strategic planning units. It is part of the prime minister’s Department of General Affairs. Since the reforms and reductions of the strategic advisory councils, the Scientific Council for Government Policy actually remains the only advisory council for long-term strategic-policy issues.

The Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (Centraal Planbureau, CPB) is part of the Department of Economic Affairs. It prepares standard annual economic assessments and forecasts (Centraal Economisch Plan, Macro-Economische Verkenningen), and cost-benefit analyses for large-scale infrastructural projects. In election years it assesses the macroeconomic impacts of political parties’ electoral platforms.

The Netherlands Institute for Social Research (Sociaal-Cultureel Planbureau, SCP) is part of the Department of Public Health, Welfare and Sports. The SCP conducts policy-relevant scientific research on the present and future of Dutch social and cultural issues – for example, political engagement and participation of citizens, media and culture, family and youth, care, housing.

The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving, PBL) is part of the Department of Infrastructure and Environment. It is the national institute for strategic-policy analysis for the environment, nature and spatial policies.

The directors of these institutes are said to have regular access to Council of Ministers meetings, but their actual influence (or that of their institute’s reports) is not known. Yet since 2009 there has been fairly strong political pressure for instrumental advice, which may be long-term, but is therefore useful for official long-term government policy.

In addition to the major strategic planning units, there are at least two important extra-governmental bodies. Firstly, the fairly influential Health Council (Gezondheidsraad, GR), is an independent scientific advisory body that alerts and advises (whether solicited or unsolicited) government and the States General on the current level of knowledge with respect to public-health issues and health-services research. Secondly, the Netherlands Institute for International Relations (Clingendael) conducts background research on Europe, security and conflict issues, diplomacy, and the changing geopolitical landscape.
R. Hoppe, 2014. Patterns of science/policy interaction in The Netherlands, in P. Scholten & F. van Nispen, Policy Analysis in the Netherlands, Policy Press, Bristol (ISBN 9781447313335)
All public institutions, including municipalities, special provincial administrations (laws 5216, 5302 and 5393) and state-owned economic enterprises (KİTs), but excluding regulatory and supervisory bodies, must prepare strategic plans according to Law 5018 (2003) on Public Financial Management and Control and the By-law on Principles and Procedures for Strategic Planning in Public Administrations (2006).

The parliament; the ministries of Finance, Development and Internal Affairs; the Turkish Court of Audit; and the Board of Internal Audit are the primary institutions involved in the process of strategic planning.

Strategic management within the Turkish public administration faces several challenges, according to the Working Group Report on Strategic Management in the Public Sector (2015). Public institutions in general have insufficient strategic-management capacity. Strategic plans, performance programs, budgets and activity reports are prepared with little if any coordination. Although a total of 730 internal auditors are employed across 207 public institutions, the Turkish public administration as a whole has failed to develop an effective internal-audit system. The Court of Audit cannot fulfill its functions and pursue performance audits. There is no relationship between political strategy documents and lower-level policy materials, and little coordination between associated institutions. Difficulties in gaining access to relevant information within public administrative bodies and insufficient human-resources capacities are additional major contributors to this failure. There are also no cumulative statistics on the frequency of meetings between strategic-planning staff members and government heads. In general, these meetings are held once a year and during budget negotiations.

The Ministry of Development issued a circular in April 2015 concerning strategic plans to be prepared by the public institutions. This document emphasizes the importance of coordination among institutions and harmony between strategic documents, and gives institutions (except municipalities) the capacity to renew their strategic plans in conjunction with changes in government. Also during the review period, the Supreme Board of Planning approved action plans relating to 25 priority transformation programs (ÖDÖP) that fall under four primary macroeconomic-, sectoral- and regional-policy objectives – ensuring sufficient labor-market skills, supporting innovative production, enhancing livable space and engaging in international development cooperation – all within the scope of the 10th Development Plan.
T.C. Kalkınma Bakanlığı, Kamuda Stratejik Yönetim Çalışma Grubu Raporu, Onuncu Kalkınma Planı (2014-2018), 2015.
Kamu İdarelerince Hazırlanacak Stratejik Planlara Dair Tebliğ, Resmi Gazete, 30 April 2015,
Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Occasionally, they exert some influence on government decision-making.
The most important systematic strategic-planning process is related to the requirements of EU membership and the necessity of preparing strategy and reform programs within the EU framework. The Ministry of Finance is in charge of preparing the national reform programs foreseen as a part of the European Union’s 2020 strategy. There is not much more strategic-planning capacity at the center of government. However, the national strategies on security, energy, governance and development of water resources, development of scientific research, Roma integration, physical education and sport, which were adopted during the 2009 – 2013 term, have provided some long-term orientation. These strategies were prepared in coordination with various ministries and on the basis of extensive discussions with the relevant expert communities. They are overseen by the line ministries and parliamentary committees responsible for these policy areas.
Czech Rep.
Though the government continues to express some skepticism toward strategic planning, some aspects of strategic planning have been developed under EU pressure. A medium-term perspective is provided by the government’s policy manifesto, which is presented to the Chamber of Deputies for a vote of confidence. In addition, the government prepares action plans for individual policy fields in cooperation with interest groups and academic and other experts. Such action plans include detailed schedules, name performance indicators and have a coordinator. The period under review saw the implementation of an action plan to support economic growth and employment adopted in autumn 2014. Moreover, the government approved two important strategic documents on energy policy: Updating the State Energy Policy and the National Action Plan for the development of nuclear energy. The plans were needed to allow the Czech Republic to meet the EU’s environmental goals.
French governments commonly refer to ad hoc committees tasked with providing information on crucial issues. In some cases, a report is requested from a single individual. Committee members are mainly high-level civil servants, former or active politicians and academics, and often are chosen on the basis of their sympathy to the government in office at the time. This situation raises the concern that opportunism may prevail over real strategic planning. One example during the review period is the Gallois report on French business competitiveness, which was commissioned by President Hollande and published in October 2012, and which has been used to legitimize financial support granted to businesses, as well as some structural reforms, against the reluctance of leftist members of the government coalition.

Most of the time committee reports are either partially paid attention to or shelved altogether. There are no committee meetings with government authorities, except the formal handing over of the requested report. A new permanent committee, set up by President Hollande to assess budgetary issues (before the budget is submitted to Brussels), might be more influential as it has been placed under the chairmanship of the president of the Court of Accounts.

The only bodies that take a long-term view in terms of strategic planning are bureaucratic departments such as those that are part of the finance or foreign affairs ministries. The committee of economic advisors attached to the prime minister’s office produces reports on its own initiative or at the office’s request. Its impact on actual policymaking is limited, however. President Hollande has redefined the tasks of the former council of strategic analysis, renamed France Stratégie, to strengthen its role in prospective political planning. In 2013, the government charged France Stratégie with coordinating a national debate about France’s prospective and strategic outlook for the next 10 years.

In spite of these various instruments, there is nothing similar in terms of comparable influence to Germany’s economic institutes, for example. In addition, it is striking how the political actors over the past years have been unable to publicly propose a “vision” or at least a credible analysis of what policies could or should be introduced.
Each government ministry has a director and unit responsible for strategy and planning. These groups have been especially active in the Ministry of Finance, the Malta Planning and Environmental Authority, the Malta Transport Authority, the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs, and the Education Ministry. Strategic planning has been boosted by the government’s efforts to reduce public debt. The National Statistics Office has also been reformed. Over the last year, the influence of strategic planning units over fiscal, domestic and education policy has increased. The Prime Minister’s Office remains, however, the central strategy office. Within ministries, the permanent secretary is responsible for developing strategy, including identifying key performance indicators, and determining timeline and budgets. In some cases, ministries employ consultants to produce reports on current policy issues, a practice that may be regarded as forward planning. The Management Efficiency Unit coordinates separate ministry plans and the Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA), which reviews government IT requirements, also assists.
Portugal’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Troika, covering the 2011 – 2014 period, strictly limited opportunities for strategic planning. Even during the post-MoU period under review here (November 2014 – November 2015), the pressure to decrease the public deficit, combined with the fact that it was an election year, resulted in virtually no changes with regard to strategic capacity. While strategic planning is pursued with regard to finances and in the economy more generally, this was severely limited by the terms of the MoU and by negotiations with Portugal’s international lenders, as well as the continuing commitment to decrease the public deficit. For example, there continue to be expert groups and offices consisting of government employees and outside experts formulating policies, such as the Departamento de Prospectiva e Planeamento de Ministério do Ambiente, do Ordenamento do Território e Desenvolvimento Regional; the Direcção Geral de Estudos, Estatística, e Planeamento (concerning employment); and the Gabinete de Estudos das Pescas. Most ministries have some kind of office or group dedicated to strategic planning. These occasionally exert some (limited) influence. However, under the ongoing deficit-reduction pressure, strategic planning is even less evident than it was prior to the bailout.
Since December 2013, the government has been led by Germany’s two most important political parties: the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). This coalition government has shown no interest in improving the strategic planning of the Federal Chancellery or federal government. No important policy instruments to improve strategic planning have been introduced under the current government. The head of the Federal Chancellery, Peter Altmaier, has the status of a minister without portfolio, strengthening his position vis-á-vis the minister-presidents of the federal states and heads of the federal ministries. Although the Federal Chancellery has a staff of around 500 employees, the federal government’s organizational structure is not well designed for strategic planning. Given the high complexity and inter-dependence of the globalized world, inter-ministerial coordination and cooperation is very important. Current crises are demonstrating the defects in government strategic planning.
The lack of strategic planning has been very clear since the dramatic increase in refugees claiming asylum in Germany. The government lost control of situation, as a consequence of the dynamic challenges that confronted it. After a long period of muddling through – characterized by unclear competences, interparty completion within government, inter-ministerial conflicts and the absence of strong, coordinative center – did Chancellor Merkel establish a coordination unit. This unit sits within the Federal Chancellery and is led by the head of the Chancellery, Peter Altmaier. This was a significant step in restructuring government. For example, it involved downgrading a steering committee within the Ministry of the Interior, which had been solely responsible for coordinating government actions. In addition, the government is strongly influenced by party-political considerations and all major political decisions are determined by negotiations between the heads of the governing parties. As a result, the cabinet was unable to plan and coordinate a government response to the “refugee crisis.”
Although there is a planning group in the Federal Chancellery, its number of staff is extremely small. It is led by Eva Christiansen, who is simultaneously Chancellor Merkel’s media adviser. However, strategic planning is not the main activity of the planning group nor is it afforded high-priority by the federal government.
Luxembourg’s small size, and thus the small size of its administration, does not allow for sufficient strategic planning capacity. Some public bodies, such as the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies Luxembourg (STATEC) and the General Inspectorate of Social Security (Inspection Générale de la Sécurité Sociale, IGSS) offer simulations. The State Economic and Social Council (Conseil économique et social) and the merged public-research institute LISER offer more qualitative analyses. The research department of the central bank (Banque Centrale du Luxembourg) and the financial sector’s general inspectorate (Commission de surveillance du secteur financier, CSSF) focus on economics and finance planning. While these institutions are state-financed, they are still not sufficiently equipped to offer long-term planning activities. State Economic and Social Council reports are partly written by civil servants in the relevant ministry departments. Strategic planning is mostly done, if not commissioned, by institutions abroad, which offers the advantage of independence and guidance via international standards. Once a report is submitted, negotiations begin between the minister and promoters; the final compromise is a draft of the project designed abroad.
The institutional capacity for strategic planning in Slovakia is weak. Capacities for planning in the ministries are limited, and there is no central policy planning unit in the Government Office. The strengthening of the expertise of the Government Office and the creation of the Solidarity and Development Council, a new advisory body, under the second Fico government failed to improve planning capacities in any substantial way. Due to the Fico government’s initial emphasis on fiscal consolidation, the role of the Institute for Financial Policy, a research institute affiliated with the Ministry of Finance, has increased. However, the Institute has taken a relatively narrow fiscal perspective and has focused on the short to medium term rather than on the long term.
OECD 2015: Public Governance Review Slovak Republic: Better Co-ordination for Better Policies, Services and Results. Paris.
Strategic planning is not given significant weight in Switzerland, as most decisions are made on an ad hoc basis. It is further rendered difficult by the fact that the country has a quasi-presidential political system (meaning the government cannot be voted out of office by the parliament) with a collegial government, a strong militia element, a consociational decision-making structure, a strong corporatist relationship between a weak federal state and outside interest organizations, and considerable uncertainty deriving from the system of direct democracy.

The Swiss government is not strictly speaking a parliamentary government, and does not have a policy agenda comparable to a “normal” parliamentary government. Furthermore, all seven members of the government have equal rights and powers; there is no prime minister. The president of the government is primus inter pares. He or she is not leader of the government in the sense of a prime minister.
General strategic planning, institutionalized under the Planning Bureau and directorates of the Ministry of Finance (MoF) was neglected until recently. Reforms imposed through the MoU (April 2013) seek to integrate the practice more deeply into the country’s administration. The Planning Bureau, now renamed the Directorate General for European Programs, Coordination and Development (DGEPCD), has been assigned new tasks. These include managing EU funds and issues related to the Lisbon Strategy, as well as planning, monitoring and coordinating government work. This shift will allow DGEPCD to supplement the MoF’s primarily budgetary planning, and expand the spectrum of planning performed by including more aspects related to development.

Most administrative units still fail to show action plans or explicitly identify goals. Indeed, the current crisis has its roots in chronic problems in this area. A law passed in 2014 aims at making strategic planning, coordination and performance monitoring the foundations of economic policymaking and budget design. Work to create the required mechanisms and procedures is ongoing, but will need time to complete. As a result, planning and coordination gaps still exist, as evidenced by periodic contradictions between government officials’ statements and announcements. Nevertheless, better economic results than forecast have been indicative of progress in planning and a will to develop the country’s existing potential.
1. The new structure of former Planning Bureau,
2. The Law on Fiscal Responsibility and Fiscal Framework, (in Greek)
Strategic planning has long proved difficult for the central government in Athens. Government has often suffered from an “archipelago”-like quality, with conflicting political interests, clientelism, and a highly formalistic administrative culture serving to enhance segmentation.

Traditionally, strategic planning has relied on small groups inadequately integrated into the governmental process. The units at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Ministry of Finance are usually staffed by academics who are affiliated with the incumbent government and work on fixed-term contracts. From 2012 to early 2015, the PMO included a group of lawyers and party cadres who are close associates of the prime minister and leader of the governing center-right party New Democracy (ND). At the PMO there is a Directorate of Strategic Planning, whereas at the Ministry of Finance there is a Council of Economic Advisors. Between 2013 and 2014, the PMO closely followed the passage of specific reform measures that had been dictated to the Greek government in exchange for continued bailout installments; after New Democracy’s defeat in the May 2013 elections to the European Parliament, however, the PMO relaxed Greece’s reform effort. The coming to power of the Syriza-ANEL government in January 2015 meant the complete reshuffling of the PMO, as had been the case in all previous government turnovers. In March 2015, the Syriza-ANEL government established a new unit at the PMO, the General Secretariat for Coordination of Government. This followed pressures from an OECD review and the Troika criticizing the weak coordination of the government. In addition, the new government completely mistrusted advisors of different political persuasions who had served under preceding governments between 2010 and 2014. Instead of drawing on their experience, the government assigned the tasks of policy planning, implementation and monitoring to Syriza party cadres who had neither previous government experience nor were familiar with the EU institutional setting and processes on which Greece continues to heavily depend.

In summary, strategic planning is limited to the time horizon of the latest bailout package and does not look beyond what the third bailout package stipulates for the period up to June 2018. Long-term planning suffers as a result, but the PMO and individual Syriza-ANEL ministries have benefited from learning to work with representatives of Greece’s creditors. They became familiar with planning and implementation the hard way, having tried between January and July 2015 to drastically alter Greece’s commitments to its creditors. Ultimately, they were eventually forced back to the dependent and weak negotiating position their predecessors had occupied between 2010 and 2014.
Political action often outpaces strategic planning In Hungary. As the Orbán governments have subordinated all political actions to the goal of consolidating their power, economic and fiscal priorities have frequently shifted, and not much effort has been invested in building institutional capacities for strategic planning. After the 2014 local elections, Orbán promised to elaborate a long-term development strategy for the country, but has failed to do so. Quite to the contrary, the government has made quick turns here and there and does not even claim to have a government program or any kind of road map for the current term.
Long-term strategic planning in Iceland is often vague, with comparatively weak execution, supervision, and revision of plans. When specific objectives are established in the policy planning phase, a lack of sufficient incentives or institutional mechanisms typically limits their realization. As a result, government can delay or change of strategic plans. For example, parliament approves a strategic regional policy every four years (Stefnumótandi byggðaáætlun), but – as this plan has the status of a parliamentary resolution rather than a law – the government has no binding obligation to implement the plan. Consequently, only certain aspects of these four-year plans have ever been implemented.

Policymaking is monitored by cabinet ministers who rely on their respective ministerial staff for advice and assistance.

Under the current government, many traditional non-partisan channels within public administration have been replaced or superseded through political appointments.
Special Investigation Committee (SIC) (2010), “Report of the Special Investigation Commission (SIC),” report delivered to parliament 12 April.

Parliamentary resolution on regional policy (Þingsályktun um stefnumótandi byggðaáætlun fyrir árin 2014–2017. 143. löggjafarþing 2013–2014.Nr. 21/143. Þingskjal 1083 — 256. mál.).
Policymaking in Romania has suffered from a lack of strategic planning. The most important strategic-planning unit within Romania’s government is the Secretariat General of the Government, which was established in 2001. The Secretariat General is in charge of developing the Integrated Strategic Plan and overseeing its implementation. Members of the Secretariat General can take part in cabinet meetings. In practice, however, the role of the Secretariat General and the Integrated Strategic Plan have been limited. In order to strengthen strategic planning, the World Bank committed financial support of $6.04 million for the creation of a delivery unit “to help focus political attention on a limited set of priority objectives” at the end of 2014.
GOVERNMENT OF ROMANIA (2015) Legislative Process. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 04/11/15].

MATEI, A & DOGARU, T (2012) Coordination of Public Policies Through Strategic Planning Instruments: Romania Case Study. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 04/11/15].

THE WORLD BANK (2014) Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) for Romania for the Period 2014-2017. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 04/11/15].

THE WORLD BANK (2015) World Bank Group Romania Partnership: Country Program Snapshot. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 04/11/15].
The institutional capacity for strategic planning in Slovenia is rather weak. Capacities for planning in the ministries are limited, and there is no central policy-planning unit in the Government Office. After assuming office, the Cerar government announced that it would expand planning capacities, but has largely failed to deliver so far.
In practice, there are no units and bodies taking a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions.
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