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 (infrastructure commission), Velfærdskommissionen (welfare commission), Arbejdsmarkedskommissionen (labor market commission) and Skattekommissionen (tax commission). 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.

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 has now been proposed by the Liberal minority government in August 2016, though its status is unclear after the change in government. The 2020 plan was 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. Taxation issues are at the center of ongoing negotiations.

There has been a continuous effort to modernize the public sector to make it more efficient. Economic policy plans have included expectations on productivity increases in the public sector, although there are obvious measurement problems in assessing the outcome of such initiatives. As a sign of the ongoing process, the new coalition government has a minister responsible for public innovation.

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.

DK2025 - et stærkere Danmark. August 2016. (Accessed 17 October 2016).
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 will be run with 2,000 participants nationwide in 2017 – 2018, is an example of this kind of new strategic evidence-based planning.
Basic income experiment;
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, and chairs the quarterly Projects Commissioning Board. The Projects Commissioning Board works closely with the Economic and Domestic Affairs Secretariat (EDS), established in summer 2015, which fosters future and innovative projects. 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. George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid-Norfolk, has led the current unit, the Prime Minister’s Policy Board, since shortly after Theresa May became prime minster in July 2016. 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 now 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. In 1997, Policy Horizons Canada was established under the PCO with a mandate to provide analysis and help the federal public service anticipate emerging policy challenges and opportunities, in order to support medium-term policy development. Its budget is small, however, and this unit has not reported through the PCO since 2007. 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.

The Trudeau government has made ample use of special advisory groups to provide information and consultations on a number of policy areas (economic growth, cultural policy, youth, etc). It is likely discussions in these groups will include long-term planning. How influential they are, however, remains to be seen.
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 2012 to 2016 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 2012 to 2016 government came into office 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. These strategic priorities and documents were largely ignored during the 2016 parliamentary elections, illustrating their limited importance. Instead competing parties and candidates focused on either concrete short-term policy issues, such as increasing wages and pensions, or general issues, such as migration and inward investment.
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. With the large number of government departments and ministers (28), most of whom are responsible for several 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 government has sought to achieve 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. Recent initiatives include the Better Public Services (BPS) program and the Policy Project Frameworks. BPS aims to build efficient and effective public services by emphasizing outputs, strengthening leadership, and providing better services and greater value for money. In August 2016, the Policy Project Frameworks aims to improve government infrastructure around policy capability, skills and advice.

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.
Department of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet (DPMC). Annual Report for the Year Ended 30 June 2015 (Wellington: State Services Commission 2015) (accessed 5 October, 2016).
Prime Minister Launches Policy Project Frameworks. Department of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet (DPMC). (accessed 5 October, 2016).
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, and other commissions have since been appointed to take a similar long view on various issues on the policy agenda.

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 coalition government, elected in September 2013, rationalized the number of government departments and agencies shortly after coming into office. The Community and Public Sector Union estimated that 18,000 public sector jobs have been cut over the subsequent period. The implications for strategic planning are unlikely to be positive.

The main weakness of the country’s strategic planning is the absence of a vision for Australia’s economic development following the end of the mining boom. In addition, Australia’s foreign policy lacks strategic orientation and coherent strategy for responding to China’s increasing regional dominance.
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).
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.
During the 2011 to 2016 government and current minority government, detailed reports were published by the government monitoring annual progress on implementing the Programme for Government.
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.

Strategic planning was most prominent in the 1960s, 70s and 80s; in the latter decade no fewer than three former planning ministers moved up to the presidency of Mexico. In more general terms, a “passion for planning” stems from the origins of the Institutional Revolutionary Party regime and its corporatist structures within a mixed economy. Mainly as a consequence of market-oriented reforms, the role of planning entities has declined since the late 1980s. This was partly the result of Mexico becoming a market economy, but also because planning itself was a failure during this period, with Mexico too bound to international economic trends to successfully implement planning decisions. However, as in several other countries in Latin America, since the 2000s planning has once again become more popular. The current PRI government is no exception to this trend, although it does not foresee major systemic changes as was the case in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador during the last decade. The major challenge to planning in Mexico, and Latin America more generally, consists in creating sufficiently tight links between the agencies responsible for planning, the implementing agencies and powerful interest groups. In this regard, it could be argued that conditions for planning within the existing Mexican economic system have been 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. This includes the implementation of anti-corruption laws and reforms in the social sector. Moreover, in 2016, the Mexican president faced comparatively low approval ratings, which will further diminish the chances for successfully implementing strategic plans.
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.
The idea of reinforcing long-term thinking and smarter policymaking has drawn increasing political attention in Spain during the crisis. 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, as a consequence of the fact that an interim government has served since the inconclusive 2015 elections, the renewed attention paid to structural reforms and security policy in previous years could lead in 2017 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. In addition to the central policy-planning units, strategic advisers exist in some sectoral ministries (Economy, Defense, Foreign Affairs), but this activity is normally understaffed, and advisers’ 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 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 2016 which aims to align Croatia’s economic policies with the jointly defined goals and provisions of the EU in the field of macroeconomic policy.

Notwithstanding the introduction of these institutional arrangements, policymaking in Croatia continues to be dominated by short-term political interests. Strategic units and bodies have extremely limited influence on government decision-making processes. Political parties usually come to power unprepared, without clearly defined priorities and policy packages. The Orešković government, for example, introduced only seven bills – including a state budget execution act, an act proposed by every government when the budget is voted on – in its first three months in office. Save for its tax reform, prepared by a minister who had gained experience by holding the same office in the former HDZ/MOST government, the Plenković government also had a slow start.
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 staff has slightly increased (from 10 to 13 positions), but some positions are vacant including the head of the Strategy Unit. 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 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.
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, a government planning guide became a compulsory tool for government offices and agencies to consolidate their strategic planning and workplans. In recent years, ministries have tended to rely more on private consultation companies than design strategic planning policies themselves. Today, a large share of a ministry’s budget is spent on hiring private consults. The Prime Minister’s Office also did not formulate detailed workplans, in accordance with the new guidelines, in 2012, 2013 or 2014. Instead, the main planning agencies and units within the Prime Minister’s Office either prepared only partial workplans or no workplans at all. While it is unclear whether government planning agencies have access to or can advise the PM 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. The influence of government planning agencies on government decision-making, while systematic, remains limited in scope and depth.
Akerman, Lior, “Does Israel have a long-term strategic plan?” Jerusalem Post, 23.6.2013, Contributors/Does-Israel-have-a-lon g-term-strategic-plan-314207
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)
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 autonomous role of strategic planning bodies. However, in 2014, a team of young economic and legal experts was appointed to advise the prime minister on policy strategies. This team has been gradually strengthened. Today a relatively small circle of individuals, trusted by the Prime Minister and strongly loyal to him, plays an important role in developing and implementing the strategic vision of the cabinet.
Under the central-government reform implemented by the Koizumi government in 2001, the role of lead institutions was considerably strengthened. The unit officially in charge of ‘policy planning and comprehensive policy coordination on crucial and specific issues in the cabinet’ is the Cabinet Office (Naikaku-fu), which assists the prime minister and his cabinet. It is supported by a well-staffed Cabinet Secretariat (Naikaku-kanbō). The Cabinet Office also coordinates a number of policy councils including the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy. While there is certain overlap between councils concerning strategic issues and thus the danger of fuzzy demarcations of responsibility, the councils have at least contributed to informing governmental and public discourses in a constructive manner. While individual line ministries have strategic planning units staffed with medium-ranking officials, their actual influence on long-term planning seems to be limited compared to the clout of bureau chiefs and more senior officials such as administrative vice-ministers. Policy planning units tend have very few staff members.
Kotaro Tsuru, Where Has the Growth Strategy Gone? Working style reform is the way to go, Article translated by RIEI from Nihon Keizai Shimbun of November 10, 2015, 10 February 2016,

N. N., Abe seeks to undermine tripartite system in labor policymaking process, Japan Press Weekly, 8 August 2016,
Each government ministry has a director and unit responsible for strategy and planning. These are strongest in the Ministry of Finance, the Malta Planning 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. This is a result of Malta’s preparations for the EU Presidency (beginning January 2017), which it has been planning for since 2014. The government also seeks to remedy deficits in the education system.
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.
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. Although the governing party lost its parliamentary majority in the 2016 parliamentary elections, the president retains wide-ranging competences that allow for long-term planning. However, President Park was often criticized for her staffing policies, as she left crucial positions in the administration open for a long time, and many of her choices failed to make it through the parliamentary vetting process or 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 shifted priorities toward achieving more general goals including “happiness for the people,” “economic democratization” and a “creative economy.” However, most of these goals, such as democratization of the economy, were later scrapped or remained vague. Many policy experts criticized Park’s capabilities, knowledge and communication style. On 30 October 2016, following the Choi Soon-sil scandal, a significant share of senior Blue House staffers resigned, presented a significant challenge to the president. This administrative vacuum further added to the concerns that Park would be a lame duck president for more than a year before the next scheduled presidential elections in December 2017.
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.

In 2016, the annual conference of the Dutch Association of Public Administration focused on the need for more strategic intelligence in addressing the big societal issues of the future. In a recent report, the Dutch ombudsman observed that what irritated Dutch citizens most about civil servants is their lack of expertise.
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)

P. ‘t Hart, De opgave centraal. Festival Bestuurskunde, 13 September 2016 (platform, consulted November 8 2016)

Nationale Ombudsman, Nederland ergert zich aan gebrek aan deskundigheid ambtenaren, 5 September 2016 (National, consulted 8 November 2016)
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).

Ministries have established strategic planning units, creating the need for inner- and inter-ministerial coordination and cooperation on present and future tasks and problems. In general, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministries of Finance, Development and Interior, the Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Turkish Court of Audit, and the Board of Internal Audit are the primary institutions involved in the process of strategic planning. In addition, the administration of the presidency has turned into another decisive body in policymaking.

Strategic management within the Turkish public administration faces several challenges. 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 resource 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.

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 programs within the EU framework. These include the convergence program, the reform program as a part of the EU’s 2020 strategy, and concrete strategical considerations justifying the setting of priorities for EU funds absorption. Under the macroeconomic imbalances procedure of the EU, which categorizes Bulgaria as a country with excessive imbalances, Bulgaria is obliged to integrate specific European Commission recommendations into the development of policy strategies.

There are national strategies on security, energy, governance and development of water resources, development of scientific research, Roma integration, physical education and sport, which serve for some long-term orientation. These strategies have been 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. Presently, the Council of Ministers’ portal for public consultations lists 174 “active” strategic documents relating to the national level, about 15 of which have a term that reaches beyond 2020.
Strategic documents at the national level (a list of documents in Bulgarian), available at:
Czech Rep.
Despite the various EU planning exercises, the quality of the Czech government’s strategic planning is poor. 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 within government.
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 adviser 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. The presidential election might trigger long-term proposals but actually, the end of Holland mandate is characterized rather by short-term decisions (such as purchasing high-speed trains for secondary lines where they are not needed in order to provide work for two more years at an ailing company).

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.
Motivated by EU demands and partly by the objective of improving its absorption and use of EU funds, the Tusk government expanded the planning capacities of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister (Kancelaria Prezesa Rady Ministrów, KPRM) and replaced the previously uncoordinated assortment of sectoral plans with a more systematic approach in which a long-term strategy developed by the Chancellery (Poland 2030: The Third Wave of Modernity) established a framework for a limited number of medium-term strategies. The PiS government has relied on this framework and has developed its own long-term strategy. A first draft of the new Strategy for Responsible Development was presented by Minister of Development Mateusz Morawiecki in February 2016. Ultimately, however, policymaking under the PiS government has been guided by the grand visions and inspirations of PiS party leader Jarosław Kaczyński.
OECD (2013): Public Governance Review Poland: Implementing Strategic-State Capacity. Paris, Chap. 2.
Despite a new government and the continued need for EU support, there are virtually no changes regarding strategic capacity. While there are strategic planning bodies in most ministries, their impact is limited. The Costa government is a minority government, dependent on the parliamentary support of three other political parties. This situation appears not to have contributed to an increase in strategic planning during the period under review. It remains to be seen whether the increasingly stability demonstrated by the Costa government will change this situation.
Reforms implemented since 2014 seek to integrate strategic planning into the country’s administrative practices , neglected until recently. This figures among the tasks assigned to the Directorate General for European Programs, Coordination and Development (DGEPCD), which include managing EU funds and issues related to the Lisbon Strategy, as well as planning, monitoring and coordinating government work. This allows DGEPCD to supplement the ministry of finance’s budgetary planning, and broaden it by including more aspects related to development.

The 2014 law on fiscal responsibility aims to confront chronic problems in administrative capacity to design action plans or explicitly identify goals. It makes strategic planning, coordination and performance monitoring the foundations of economic policymaking and budget design. Work to create the required mechanisms and procedures started in 2014 with gradually including more agencies and bureaus in the process. Extensive control powers are assigned to the minister of finance. Planning and coordination and full strategic planning capacity will need years to achieve. Nevertheless, better than forecasted economic results achieved so far are indicative of progress in planning and a will to develop the country’s existing potential.
1. The new structure of former Planning Bureau,
2. Action Plan for Growth, Progress report June 2016,
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 Chancellery or federal government. The head of the 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 Chancellery has a staff of around 500 employees, the federal government’s organizational structure is not well designed for strategic planning.

Critics diagnosed a lack of strategic planning when Chancellor Merkel opened the borders to incoming refugees without extensive prior coordination across government. Others noted that this partial loss of control was unavoidable given the unforeseen magnitude of external events.

After a extended period of muddling through – characterized by unclear competences, interparty competition within government, interministerial conflicts and the absence of a strong, coordinative center – Chancellor Merkel has established a coordination unit. This unit sits within the Chancellery and is led by its head, Peter Altmaier.

One handicap for developing a strategic policy approach is that the government is strongly influenced by party considerations, with all major political decisions determined in negotiations between the heads of the governing parties. Consequently, most governmental decisions are negotiated between the three heads of the parties that make up the current government (CDU, CSU and SPD) and not between members of government. Party leader of the CSU, Horst Seehofer, is not a member of the government. This practice results in “party politicization” of the government, which undermines strategic planning.

Although there is a planning group in the Chancellery, its number of staff is extremely small. It is led by Eva Christiansen, who is simultaneously Chancellor Merkel’s media adviser. 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. A few public bodies offer simulations, 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). 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 general inspectorate of the financial sector (Commission de surveillance du secteur financier, CSSF), focus on economics and finance planning. While these institutions are state-financed, they are nevertheless not sufficiently equipped to offer long-term planning activities. State Economic and Social Council reports are partly written by civil servants of the relevant ministry departments. Strategic planning is mostly done, if not commissioned, by institutions abroad, which offer 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.
“Autres acteurs.” Le portail des statistiques du Luxembourg, Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

Banque centrale du Luxembourg, Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier, Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

Conseil économique et social, Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research, Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.
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. The situation has not improved under the new coalition government.
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. 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 non-professional 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.

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. Weak horizontal coordination within and among ministries, government agencies and state-owned companies make matters worse.

Until 2015, strategic planning relied on the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Ministry of Finance and of course the long-term policy guidelines included in the first and the second Memoranda of Understanding, signed between previous Greek governments and Greece’s creditors. The departments at the PMO and the Ministry of Finance used to be staffed by academics who were affiliated with the incumbent government and worked on fixed-term contracts. From 2012 to early 2015, the PMO included a group of lawyers and economists.

After the government turnover of 2015, fewer such experts and academics were included in the PMO. Particularly in the first eight months of 2015, until Prime Minister Tsipras agreed on the Third Economic Adjustment Program, the government had 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. Afterwards and during the period under review, the situation improved, as strategic planning was actually included, at least for the period 2015-2018, in the Third Memorandum of Understanding, signed between Greece and its creditors.

In other words, government cadres try to follow the sequence of policy measures and to attain the policy targets determined in the aforementioned memorandum. This requisite strategic planning does not hold in policy sectors which the memorandum does not cover in a binding manner. Examples are the public order, education, culture and sports policy – sectors where, instead of strategic planning, there is a lot of experimentation and improvisation on the part of the government.
The Orbán governments have subordinated all political actions to the goal of consolidating their power. The 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 thus far. In late 2016, the government announced the adoption of the third Széll Kálman Plan, a new plan for economic development in the tradition of two strategic documents adopted in 2011 and 2012.
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, the 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 and not legal status – 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.
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 continues to suffer 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 roles of the Secretariat General and the Integrated Strategic Plan have been limited. In September 2016, the Secretariat’s activity was disrupted by the replacement of its leader, who resigned to run in the December 2016 parliamentary elections.
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. Although, after assuming office, the Cerar government announced that it would expand planning capacities, little progress has been made. In the period of review, the government presented a number of important strategic documents, including the strategies on public administration and local government development, as well as a White Book on pensions.
In practice, there are no units and bodies taking a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions.
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