Implementation

   

To what extent can the government achieve its own policy objectives?

EUOECD
 
The government can largely implement its own policy objectives.
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9
Latvia
The government has a good track record in achieving its own policy objectives. In issue areas considered by the government as high priority – recent examples include economic recovery, euro zone entry criteria, budget reform and fiscal discipline, OECD entry requirements – government performance can be considered excellent. The government has proven to be particularly efficient in implementing policies that have been recommended by international partners (EU, NATO, Council of Europe, OECD).

However, second-tier policy objectives show mixed success rates. For example, despite the fact that successive government declarations have identified education reform as a policy priority, little demonstrable progress has been made toward fulfilling the outlined policy objectives. Furthermore, in the prime minister’s annual reports to the parliament in 2012, 2013 and 2014, no significant education policy achievements are recognized. In 2016, however, a reform of the teacher compensation system was passed and significant curriculum reform is currently being implemented. Opposition to the implementation of education-policy objectives has been strong not only on the part of stakeholder groups and opposition parties, but also among the government coalition parties’ own parliamentarians.

The PKC monitors progress with respect to government-declaration goals on an annual basis, providing a report to the prime minister. In 2015 this report included an evaluation of Latvia’s progress toward its long-term development goals (included in the National Development Plan 2020 and the Latvia 2030 long-term development strategy). The prime minister provided parliament with a progress report on 24 separate performance indicators, reporting good progress in nine cases, adequate/weak performance in 10 cases, and poor performance in eight cases, requiring a reprioritizing or revision of policy measures. A mid-term review of the National Development Plan is expected in 2018.
Citations:
1. Dombrovskis, V. (2012), Prime Minister’s Report to the Parliament on the Government Achievements and Planned Activities, Available at (in Latvian): http://titania.saeima.lv/LIVS11/saeimalivs_lmp.nsf/0/D694F8C875FD4B47C22579F30041105F?OpenDocument, Last assessed: 21.05.2013.

2. Dombrovskis, V. (2013), Prime Minister’s Report to the Parliament on the Government Achievements and Planned Activities, Available at (In Latvian): http://www.lvportals.lv/viedokli.php?id=254542, Last assessed: 21.05.2013

3. Declaration on the Cabinet of Ministers’, led by Valdis Dombrovskis, Planned Activities (2013), Available at (in Latvian): http://www.mk.gov.lv/lv/mk/darbibu-reglamentejosie-dokumenti/valdibasdek/, Last assessed: 21.05.2013.

4. Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS (2015). Montoring of Systemic Change in the Aftermath of Zolitude (in Latvian) Available at: http://providus.lv/musuvalsts/monitorings/4, Last assessed 22.11.2015.

5. Monitoring Report: Latvia’s sustainable development strategy 2030 and National Development Plan 2014 – 2020, and Laimdota Straujuma’s government declaration. PKC 2015. (In Latvian) Available at:
http://www.pkc.gov.lv/images/MP_zinojums/MPzin_07092015_Uzraudzibas_zinojums.pdf, Last assessed 22.11.2015.
New Zealand
Throughout the review period, the three-term National government held minority status, although its 2014 victory, with 47% of the vote and 59 out of 121 seats, brought it closer to majority status than any other under MMP (indeed, the last time a party gained over 50% of the vote was in 1951). Minority status implies that the government has to anticipate the policy preferences of other parties in parliament and needs to seek legislative support on an issue-by-issue basis. Nevertheless, minority single party and minority-coalition governments have been relatively successful in implementing their agendas. The focus of the National minority government’s policy priorities included: building a stronger and more competitive economy; ensuring a budgetary surplus; and selectively funding major infrastructure developments and public services.
Citations:
Statement of Intent 2014-2018 (Wellington: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet 2014).
Statement of Intent 2014-2018 (Wellington: State Services Commission 2014).
Sweden
The implementation capacity of the Swedish government is strong. The circa 340 executive agencies are the key actors in the implementation of policy. Over the past few years, the departments have increased the steering of their agencies. Also, performance measurement and management have become increasingly important in monitoring the agencies and the implementation process.

Yet like the challenge of efficient policy coordination, policy implementation is also a challenge under the restrictions of new governance forms. The relationship between the government and the agencies no longer follows a strict command and control pattern; rather, it is a more interactive form of governance where departments utilize the expertise in the agencies during the early stages of the policy process. This pattern is largely due to the fact that policy expertise is located not just in the departments but also in the agencies. The total number of staff in the departments is about 4,600, whereas the number of staff at the agency level is about 220,000. To a large extent, and with considerable variation among policy sectors and even specific issues, agencies provide informal advice to government on policy design. In some cases, there is a weekly dialog between departments and agencies, not just on what departments want agencies to do but also on matters of policy design. This means effectively that agencies are involved in shaping the policies they will later implement. This arrangement obviously increases the agencies’ commitment to a policy, but at the same time it complicates the implementation process.

The main challenge in implementing government policies is not institutional but political. The current red-green government does not control a majority of seats in the parliament. As a consequence, policy proposals must be negotiated with the opposition parties. If all opposition parties unite against the government, the government’s proposals are defeated. The complexity of this parliamentary situation significantly complicates the policy process.
Citations:
Jacobsson, B., J. Pierre and G. Sundström (2015), Governing the Embedded State (Oxford: Oxford Universirty Press).

Premfors, R. and G. Sundström (2007), Regeringskansliet (Malmö: Liber).
Switzerland
The Swiss polity contains many different potential veto points, including political parties, cantons that have veto power in the second chamber, and interest groups with the power to trigger a referendum. Thus, the government must hammer out compromises carefully when drafting legislation. This is done in the pre- parliamentary stage of legislation. Once a bill is introduced into parliament, many of the necessary compromises have already been reached. For this reason, a substantial number of bills are passed in parliament without being modified.
 
The government is partly successful in implementing its policy objectives or can implement some of its policy objectives.
8
Canada
As a result of a parliamentary system in which members of Parliament are elected in single-member constituencies through first-past-the-post voting, the Canadian federal government frequently holds an absolute majority in the House of Commons and thus has considerable freedom to pursue its policy objectives unilaterally.

Halfway through its term, the Liberal government has already implemented many of the policies that the party campaigned on in the October 2015 election. In its first year, the Liberal government formed a gender balanced cabinet, reinstated the long-form census, revoked regulations that restricted scientific research, introduced a new child benefit system, and cut taxes for middle-income earners while increasing taxes for high-income earners. The Liberal government continued to implement policies from its electoral platform in its second year, including progressive tax reform, pension reform, approving cross-country pipelines, legalizing marijuana and increasing the independence of Statistics Canada. The public mandate letters given to each minister will allow the assessment of ministers’ performances relative to expectations. Many social problems targeted by public policy, such as persistent education and health care disparities between Canada’s indigenous and non-indigenous populations, are complex social phenomena that are only partly amenable to public policy action. In addition, many of the programs funded by Canada’s federal government – including health care, post-secondary education, social services and the integration of immigrants – are implemented by provincial governments and requires provincial cooperation to achieve federal policy objectives.
Denmark
The current as well as former governments have been minority governments. They have therefore had to seek parliamentary support for their policies from other parties. The Liberal-Conservative government of Lars Løkke Rasmussen lost the elections in September 2011 to a coalition of the Social Democratic Party, the Social Liberal Party and the Socialist People’s Party, the latter for the first time taking part in a government. That government was headed by the first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Social Democratic Party). The June 2015 elections led to the formation of a single party government: the Liberal Party government led by Lars Løkke Rasmussen. In the autumn 2016, a minority government was established between the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Alliance, still with Rasmussen as prime minister. This is a minority government with parliamentary support from the Danish People’s Party. Together these so-called blue parties have 90 seats in the parliament, a majority of one.

The Danish government administration has a reasonable track-record in implementation. It is important to point out that local governments carry out a large part of implementation, as Denmark is a relatively decentralized state. Decentralized units provide much of the services of the welfare state and the intention is actually to allow some geographical variation. Even so, through stipulations in framework laws and budget constraints, the government is quite successful in steering agencies and administrative bodies even if they are not in a direct hierarchical relationship with the central government.

In recent years, however, tensions have developed between the municipalities and government. Specifically, tensions have resulted when policymakers at the national level have not accepted the choices made by local governments and thus attempted to control local actions via rules and regulations. The difficult financial situation in most municipalities and the need to coordinate local needs with national budget constraints have caused tension. In the past, the municipalities failed to keep expenditure growth below the level agreed to with the central government. As a consequence, a tighter system has been implemented that includes possible financial sanctions for municipalities that exceed the agreed targets.

A major structural reform effective in 2007 changed the organization of the public sector. Fifteen counties were replaced with five regions, that were mainly responsible for health care provision, and 270 municipalities merged into 98 larger units.
Citations:
Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen et al., Politik og forvaltning, 4. udg., 2017, chapter 2.

Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen and Jørgen Elklit (eds.), Det demokratiske system. 4. udg., Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2016.
Estonia
In November 2016, a coalition led by Jüri Ratas (Center Party) entered office after Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas (Reform Party) lost a no confidence vote in the parliament. Basic principles of government for the period 2016 – 2019 stipulate four priorities: to safeguard and increase national security, to bring Estonia out of economic stagnation, to increase public welfare and cohesion, and to grow the population. The Government Action Plan 2016 – 2019 and 100-Day-Action Plan (together with an Evaluation Report published in March 2017) have been published on a government website. Of the 101 tasks for the first 100 days, only 10% remained unaccomplished, mainly due to a need for additional investigation. Thus, in terms of quantity, the government has been sufficiently effective. In terms of quality, significant progress has been made compared to the previous cabinet. First, tasks are better aligned with the strategic policy goals and second, several burning issues have finally been brought into the agenda (e.g., tax reform, pension reform, and securing the sustainability of pension funds).

As a joint effort by the thinktank Praxis and Estonian Employers’ Confederation, an independent project Riigireformi Radar (Governance Reform Radar) was launched in 2016 for monitoring the administration’s performance in making the government more efficient. An expert panel assesses government’s performance every three months along five dimensions. The evaluation in September 2017 commended the accomplishment of an administrative reform (i.e., the amalgamation of municipalities) but remained critical of improvements of central government efficiency.
Finland
Given that Finland has lately been governed by broad or fairly broad coalition governments, the constitutional and political conditions for a satisfactory implementation of government plans have been good. A February 2013 session reviewing the implementation record under former Prime Minister Katainen (2011 – 2014) concluded that approximately 80% of the measures outlined in the government program had at that point been undertaken successfully. However, according to the review, the largest and most difficult program issues remained unsolved. Following a cabinet reshuffle, the government program under Prime Minster Stubb (2014 – 2015) was submitted to parliament in June 2014 and was fairly well received. The present Sipilä government announced its program at the end of May 2015; in comparison with earlier programs, which resembled a telephone directory in size, the Sipilä program is much shorter and more strategic and focused. The program announced five strategic priorities that are manifested in 26 key projects, the primary goal being to bring the Finnish economy onto a path of sustainable growth. An action plan for implementation was published in February 2016 and updated in April 2017; a Legislation Assessment Council was appointed in April 2016. Follow-up estimations are now web-published at regular intervals. As evident from these assessments, the government’s likelihood of success in implementing its objectives remains a somewhat open question. The government has already been forced to back away from several of its proposals.
Citations:
Ville Pitkänen, “Kenen ääni kuuluu hallitusohjelmassa?”, Kanava, 2015, Nr 6, pp. 40-42;
valtioneuvosto.fi/implementation-of-the-government-programme;
valtioneuvosto.fi/hallitusohjelman toteutus/karkihankkeiden-toimintasuunnitelma.;
“Finland, a land of solutions. Mid-term review. Government action plan 2017-2019.” http://valtioneuvosto.fi/documents/10184/321857/Government%20action%20plan%2028092017%20en.pdf/034211c9-84dd-43a7-8d7f-e5d055965a2c
Germany
The last government has successfully realized many of the pledges made in the coalition agreement (cf. Coalition Agreement 2014). It introduced a pension reform that allows eligible workers to retire at 63 and increases pension payments to older mothers and those with a reduced earning capacity. The Bundestag also approved the country’s first general statutory minimum wage, set at €8.50 per hour at the time and increased to €8.84 in 2017. In addition, the coalition parties agreed to introduce legal gender quotas for corporate boards in order to help break the glass ceiling for women in corporate leadership positions. Even for the motorway toll project, the responsible minister has been able to come to an agreement with the European Commission which makes compensatory tax cuts for German car drivers compatible with European law.

A less favorable example concerns a much more complicated project, Germany’s energy transition toward renewable energy (Energiewende). A recent National Audit Office report criticized the project for lacking proper coordination, and being subject to the whims of too many federal and state ministries that often work against each other. The Energiewende’s implementation presents significant governance challenges. It is a complex challenge that requires cooperation from and coordination between various public and private actors as well as with diverse political levels and jurisdictions – global, European, federal, state, and municipal – as well as interest groups, cooperatives, alliances, banks, and individuals. As a result, political-programmatic goals as well as implementation strategies are continuously in flux.

Refugee and migration policies are a further challenge. The government had agreed on the need for smoothing asylum processes, with quicker decision-making in order to speed up the integration of refugees into the education system and labor market. Through a comprehensive reorganization and staff expansion of the responsible agency (BAMF), the objective of reducing the backlog in asylum applications made some progress. Nonetheless, at the end of October 2017, 546,540 asylum applications had been decided upon, which is 3.1% more than in 2016 (Asylgeschäftsstatistik Oktober 2017). The last government was also successful in reducing the number of incoming refugees through a coordinated policy strategy involving complex agreements with Turkey and a coordinated EU effort to improve border protections. After the record arrival of refugees in 2015 and the decline in 2016, the number of asylum applications decreased by about 75% in 2017.
Citations:
http://www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_36853-544-2-30.pdf?140820093605

http://www.spiegel.de/thema/energiewende/

https://www.mckinsey.de/energiewendeindex

http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/fluechtlinge-in-deutschland-die-grosse-aufgabe-der-integration-a-1069830.html

Asylgeschäftsstatistik Oktober 2017:
http://www.bamf.de/SharedDocs/Anlagen/DE/Downloads/Infothek/Statistik/Asyl/201710-statistik-anlage-asyl-geschaeftsbericht.pdf?__blob=publicationFile
Italy
The current Gentiloni government, which only took office in the last year of the current parliamentary term, did not have an ambitious government program. The government had to sensitively conduct budgetary policy. This entailed respecting EU rules (under the close scrutiny of the European Commission), while promoting economic recovery. This was necessary to win parliamentary approval for the electoral reform following the failed attempt of the Renzi government. The government also had to manage and control the number of immigrants arriving in Italy by sea from North Africa, and deal with problems in the pension system. With a few failures in delicate legislative areas (e.g., extending citizenship to children with a migrant background born in Italy), the government has proven fairly successful in achieving its program. In particular, the relationship between the government and the European Commission has improved and the flow of irregular immigrants has been reduced.
Citations:
http://www.programmagoverno.gov.it/media/2998/report_30-ottobre_2016.pdf
Norway
The government is a minority government and they depend on support from at least two smaller parties in the parliament. A negotiated agreement governs this relationship, but the agreement has limited influence over budgetary policies. However, it can be expected that this agreement will become increasingly strained and in some instances these support parties will oppose government policy, causing minor “losses” for the government. The potential for conflict between the parties in government has represented one possible impediment to government efficiency, another challenge is gaining support in the parliament. The government can rely on a large, well-trained and capable bureaucracy to implement its policies. However, major educational, health care and local vs regional government reforms have exposed the difficulties in implementing such reforms and demonstrated the need for the government to carefully navigate the needs of different stakeholders and veto players. The government has recently implemented structural reforms of local governance, health care, the police, and the defense and military sector. Though the government faced considerable opposition in some of these areas.
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Austria
The evaluation of policy success in Austria strongly reflects the reality of coalition governments. Following the formation of a government, coalition parties agree on policy priorities. Implementation success is used as a vehicle to promote party agendas, rather than the government overall, while each coalition party typically blames the other in cases of failure. This can be regarded as a kind of oppositional behavior within the government: One party acts almost like an opposition regarding the agenda of the other party.

This said, if the coalition partners agree on a policy, it is most likely to be adopted, given the high degree of party discipline in parliament and the limited influence of the second chamber.

This may not change under the newly formed coalition government. There is a new coalition partner, the FPÖ. However, the structure of a two-party coalition will be the same as before. Each governing party promote its role in government, even if this means distancing itself from their coalition partner.
Lithuania
During the fast process of transition and accession to the European Union, Lithuanian governments’ narrow focus on this task produced a lag in policy implementation. The performance of the Kubilius government in terms of implementing its policy priorities was mixed. Although its policy of fiscal consolidation represented one important success, few major structural reforms occurred in Lithuania during the 2008 to 2012 period, with the exception of higher education reform, a partial optimization of the health care network and a restructuring of the energy sector. Although the Butkevičius government outlined a broad set of policy priorities, its implementation record was also mixed. The government introduced the euro in 2015, developed the new “social model,” completed the construction of the liquefied-natural-gas terminal in Klaipėda and advanced the renovation of apartment blocks. However, less progress was achieved in other policy areas, including structural reform of higher education and training, health care, and public administration. The Skvernelis government was able to push through a few important reform policies, including a new labor code, the merger of state-owned forestry companies and amendments to the Alcohol Control Law. It is not clear if the government will be able to sustain its reform momentum due to its diminished parliamentary majority following a split within the Social Democratic Party parliamentary group. Coalition politics, shifting political attention, the conflicting strategies of various advocacy coalitions and weak political leadership largely explain the government’s failure to implement several major policy objectives. For example, although the merger of state-owned forestry companies is scheduled to begin in 2018, at the time of writing, there remains considerable uncertainty regarding the implementation of this reform and opposing interest groups have renewed their efforts to derail the reform. It is also unclear how the reform and consolidation of higher education institutions will proceed, as a number of changes have been made to the government’s initial plan.

The government should also continue improving the effectiveness and efficiency of its spending. In the World Bank’s 2016 Worldwide Governance Indicators, Lithuania scored 82 out of 100 for government effectiveness, up from 78.9 in 2014. However, in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018, Lithuania ranked 95 out of 137 countries for efficiency of government spending. In her 2015 speech to the parliament, President Dalia Grybauskaitė identified several examples of unsustainable government projects previously supported by EU structural funds.
Citations:
The Worldwide Governance Indicators of World Bank are available at http://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/#home
The 2017 – 2018 Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/GCR2017-2018/05FullReport/TheGlobalCompetitivenessReport2017%E2%80%932018.pdf
Vitalis Nakrošis, Ramūnas Vilpišauskas and Vytautas Kuokštis: Fiscal consolidation and structural reforms in Lithuania in the period 2008-2012: from grand ambitions to hectic firefighting. International Review of Administrative Sciences 81 (3), 2015, p. 522–540.
Luxembourg
In general, the government can implement its policy objectives, usually outlined in electoral promises or coalition government programs. This might take longer than planned, given that a policy based on maximum consensus is often cumbersome. But projects are sometimes not only slowed down but delayed indefinitely, especially when powerful lobbies are involved. This is particularly the case for major infrastructural or zoning projects, such as the tramway system for the city of Luxembourg, which was under discussion for 25 years before agreement was reached in 2013. A legislative proposal, that was already far advanced, was postponed before the 1999 election. After many years of discussions about that project, the tram line finally started in 2017.
Citations:
“Parliament votes for the tram.” Luxemburger Wort, 5 June 2014, www.wort.lu/en/politics/central-train-station-to-luxexpo-parliament-votes-for-the-tram-5390279cb9b398870803124a. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

“ Revivez le voyage inaugural avec le couple grand-ducal.” Luxemburger Wort, 10. Dec. 2017, www.wort.lu/fr/luxembourg/tram-funiculaire-et-deux-nouvelles-gares-revivez-le-voyage-inaugural-avec-le-couple-grand-ducal-5a2cfc34c1097cee25b7a01b. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.
Poland
Favored by its absolute majority in parliament and the internal discipline of PiS, the PiS government has been quite effective in implementing its policy objectives. It has succeeded in realizing its major campaign pledges, such as the increase in the minimum wage and the family allowance, tax relief for small businesses, the lowering of the retirement age or the reversion to a higher age for entering school, and it has realized them rather quickly. Precisely because so many bills have sailed so quickly through parliament, the quality of legislation has often proven to be very poor, requiring immediate amendments. Unlike in the PiS government’s first year in office, street protests are no longer the only effective obstacle to implementing the government’s policy objectives. In winter 2016 – 2017, the Sejm crisis and the occupation of the Sejm building by opposition members of parliament delayed the passing of the budget. In July 2017, President Duda’s unexpected veto of two of the three laws on the reform of the judiciary revealed rifts within the PiS and limits to the government’s power.
Portugal
The Costa government is guided by a very impressive agenda, the Programa do XXI Governo Constitucional 2015 – 2019. In its first two years in office, as detailed elsewhere in this survey, it implemented a number of measures seeking to alleviate conditions of austerity. A number of these measures resulted from the government’s negotiations with the PCP, BE and PEV to ensure their parliamentary support. Other more ambitious goals, such as administrative modernization, are also being developed, but will require a broader time-frame for implementation. The government has proved to be considerably more stable than initially predicted, which may allow it to implement its ambitious policy objectives. At the same time, it should be noted that the government continues to face intense scrutiny from the European Union and world markets with regard to budgetary consolidation, along with no-less-intense scrutiny from its parliamentary allies with regard to austerity alleviation. During the period here under analysis, the government was mostly successful in negotiating these pressures and advancing its policy agenda.
Citations:
Programa do XXI Governo Constitucional, 2015 – 2019.
Netherlands
According to an optimistic estimate by a leading newspaper, the Rutte II government has in its four-year reign implemented 80% of its policy initiatives. Of the 271 initiatives, 158 were successful and 59 were (partial) failures. In its overall assessment of government performance, the General Audit Chamber still finds most departmental reports inadequate in terms of policy effectiveness and efficient monetary expenditure. This is especially true for progress made in cutback policies and, according to parliamentary inquiries, for information- and communications-technology applications and large infrastructure (rail, roads) projects.

The government frequently formulates more far-reaching policy goals than are pursued in practice. Recent policy failures have involved train and rail infrastructure, job creation, flexible labor market relations, and tax and pension reforms, which were postponed and will need to be addressed by the next government. Nevertheless, the government will claim credit for renewed economic growth, budgetary equilibrium, and important austerity measures (e.g., an increase in working hours, reduced public funding for home care, a gradual decrease in tax relief on mortgages and capping health care costs). In water management, implementation of the “Room for River” plans appear to have been successful.

The national government has devolved a significant number of tasks to subnational governments, which makes government and administrative responsibilities more fuzzy, and policy performance harder to evaluate. Provincial and local audit chambers, do what they can, but the amount and scope of decentralized tasks is simply too large for their capacity at this moment. Policy implementation in the fields of policing, youth care and care for the elderly in particular are increasingly sources of complaints by citizens and professionals, and thus becoming matters of grave concern. In academic and professional evaluation circles, a debate is emerging on how to tailor evaluation research designs to the need for more policy-oriented learning.
Citations:
Eindrapport Parlementair onderzoek naar ICT projecten bij de overheid, Tweede Kamer, vergaderjaar 2014-2015, 33 326, nr. 5

Provinciale en lokale rekenkamers, Algemene Rekenkamer Verslag 2013 (rekenkamer.nl, consulted 27 October 2014)

Pierre Koning, Van toezicht naar inzicht, Beleidsonderzoek Online, July 2015 (beleidsonderzoekonline.nl, consulted 26 October 2015)

NRC-Handelsblad, “Rutte-II deed – grotendeels – wat het beloofde in 2012.,” 14 January 2017

“De rivier is breder, de rust is terug,” NRC-Handelsblad, 22 February 2017

Elsevier Weekblad, “Leo Stevens: waarom we de fiscus niet vertrouwen,” 8 July 2017.
UK
The United Kingdom’s political system is highly centralized. For example, there are no “veto players” outside of the central government who could challenge or undermine the government’s core policy objectives. There is no written constitution and no constitutional court to challenge government decisions directly and effectively. However, there is provision for judicial review, something the government is currently trying to limit given its extensive use in recent years. The devolution of certain powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has meant that some national policy goals are subject to decisions at the subnational level over which the central government has only limited powers. In particular, the influence of the Scottish Parliament, based in Holyrood, has increased substantially following the close outcome of the Scottish referendum and the massive gains made by the Scottish National Party across Scotland in the last UK general election.

Historically, problems in achieving policy objectives have mainly arisen through intra-party disunity and parliamentary party rebellions. Even under the exceptional coalition government, Premier Minister David Cameron had more trouble controlling his own party’s right-wing than dealing with the demands of the junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats – until the United Kingdom returned to its traditional one-party government in 2015. That however changed again after the general election in 2017 in which May lost her absolute majority and was forced into a “confidence and supply” arrangement with the Northern Irish unionist DUP. It remains a fact, however, that regarding Brexit some of May’s most vocal opposition comes from both Brexiteers and Remainers within her own Conservative Party. While the former publicly express their concerns almost on a daily basis, the latter also have substantial influence which may well be on display at some future occasion.
6
Australia
In September 2015, Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister. The transition from from Abbott to Turnbull increased public optimism that the government would successfully implement its policy agenda. However, optimism soon faded and the government called a “double-dissolution” election in July 2016. Under a double-dissolution election, all 76 senate seats are contested, rather than the usual 40 seats. The strategy backfired. The coalition government only won a very narrow majority in the lower house and a reduced number of seats in the upper house. Policy gridlock increased following the July 2016 election, but in 2017 the government has had more success in negotiating with the minor parties to pass legislation.
Citations:
http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/brilliant-and-fearless-but-paul-keating-was-right-about-turnbull-20090626-czt7.html
Belgium
On 9 October 2014, the newly instituted government published its government agreement, the document meant to guide its policy over the whole government term. Its first objective was to increase the employment rate from 67.5% to 73.2%. The country’s activity rate actually peaked a first time in the fourth quarter of 2014 at 68%, and has only recently recovered (Statbel data), in line with similar euro area countries. Employment rates remained flat over the last year, even though they are about 5 percentage points below the euro area average (and 12 points below Dutch or German levels). This gap is mainly due to comparatively low employment rates among those aged 55 to 64 – about 23 percentage points below the German level, and more generally very low even compared to other advanced EU economies. The government has restricted access to early retirement, which may have contributed to the slight uptick in the employment rate. Moreover, it is possible that a more significant impact has only been delayed. If this diagnosis is correct, the government may see more significant results from these reforms next year.

This government also committed to resolving past differentials in wage inflation that eroded the Belgian labor force’s global competitiveness. One reform has been to block “automatic wage indexation,” a legal provision that had aligned nominal wage growth with inflation rates. The measure’s passage prompted massive protests and strikes. Finally, the government is planning to cut corporate taxation rates. The jury is still out regarding the overall effectiveness of these reforms with regard to delivering higher investment and employment rates.

A second objective has been to reform the pension system. The short-term policy objective was to tighten early retirement rules. This reform passed despite substantial dissent by unions and opposition parties. In the longer term, the government has been trying to introduce additional reforms to reinforce the sustainability of the pension system, but that objective has only a low-to-medium probability of being attained by this government.

The government agreement’s third objective was to ensure the sustainability of the social-security system. In this case, the government has articulated a clear direction: It is cutting expenses, reimbursements and coverage across the board, at the risk of harming the lower-middle class. Another stated objective has been to increase GDP, but the government arguably has little control over economic growth.

The government’s fourth objective was to reform the tax system and enhance the government’s budget balance. Actual reforms have been too timid to produce a substantial gain in efficiency, but have been large enough to affect the budget deficit adversely.

The fifth objective was much broader and concerns energy, environment and science policy. Ministers in this area are comparatively weak within their respective parties, in some cases lacking experience in their portfolio areas, and achievements have accordingly been less clear cut.

The sixth objective was to improve “justice and security.” The main policy lever envisioned here is to improve the “efficiency” of the justice system – that is, to make it function with less funding. Progress has been limited thus far.

The other five stated objectives concern 7) asylum and migration policy, 8) public administration and enterprises, 9) a projection of Belgian “values and interests” in international relations, 10) improvements in mobility and road safety (a largely hopeless task given the complexity of Belgian institutions), and 11) transversal issues that include “equality and fairness,” “sustainable development” and “privacy and personal-information protection.” The government still seems quite determined to make progress on several of these issues, but only time will tell what exactly it will achieve.
Citations:
https://www.nbb.be/doc/dq/e/dq3/histo/iee1745.pdf
https://www.lecho.be/economie-politique/belgique-general/Syndicats-et-patrons-invites-a-mettre-un-coup-d-accelerateur-a-la-pension-a-points/9954736?highlight=pension
http://www.premier.be/sites/default/files/articles/Acc ord_de_Gouvernement_-_Regeerakkoord.pdf

http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exp loreeconomies/belgium#protecting-minority-investors

http://www.premier.be/fr/ d%C3%A9claration-du-gouvernement-3
Bulgaria
In general, Bulgarian governments avoid setting policy-performance benchmarks that are available to the public. The two main exceptions are within the area of macroeconomic policy, especially regarding the budget, and compliance with the high-profile requirements of EU membership. The government has succeeded in controlling the fiscal deficit and public debt. With respect to the European Union, Bulgaria has been relatively successful in contracting EU funds, but has not yet achieved its long-standing objectives of joining the Schengen Area, exiting the excessive macroeconomic imbalances procedure and starting the process of joining the euro zone. Despite the government’s rhetoric about introducing programmatic budgeting, which necessarily includes performance benchmarks and efficiency measurements, budgeting in Bulgaria in fact remains primarily based on historical expenditures.
Chile
Implementation performance varies widely, ranging from excellent in areas where benchmarks and oversight mechanisms are strictly enforced (i.e. the general government budget) to weak in less rigidly monitored areas (i.e. implementation of some sectoral reforms such as Transantiago, the Santiago transport system). The former government of Piñera, for example, did not follow through on policies in the field of crime reduction and public safety, while the current Bachelet government has had to downsize its tax- and education-reform proposals. In general terms, far-reaching reforms that would require constitutional change and thus support by at least three-fifths of the national deputies and senators have not been considered as a part of government programs. Thus, this high hurdle has not yet proved to be a practical obstacle in the achievement of governments’ policy objectives. Nevertheless, Bachelet has launched a debate on a constitutional reform.
Citations:
Independent initiative to measure implementation of the government program:
https://ciudadanointeligente.org/
https://deldichoalhecho.cl/
France
The government is efficient in implementing its programs, as it can rely on a relatively disciplined cabinet, an obedient majority and a competent bureaucracy. Resistance, if any, comes from social actors. The question whether government policies are effective is another matter. One of the major issues that the Hollande government faced was a lack of credibility concerning its commitments to economic growth, unemployment and the reduction of the public deficit. Optimistic forecasts have been disappointed by poor results on all fronts. Most international organizations (the IMF, OECD and the European Union), think tanks or even national organizations (the French central bank, the statistical institute and the Court of Auditors) have pointed out the impossibility of reaching set targets based on over-optimistic data or forecasts. However, the election of President Macron represents a radical change at the top. The main improvement has been the capacity of the Macron government to combine its policy commitments with intense stakeholder concertation before finalizing legislative proposals. Until now, this method of policymaking has been quite successful. Though it is still rather early to evaluate the effectiveness of this strategy, and its likely success in the medium- to long-term.
Iceland
As a rule, the strength of the executive branch vis-à-vis the legislative branch ensures that bills proposed by the government are rarely rejected by parliament. Thus, governments are usually able to achieve all of their policy objectives.

However, legislative proposals by the 2009-2013 left-wing cabinet were twice overturned by the public in national referendums, in 2009 and 2011. On both occasions, the referendums concerned the introduction of government guarantees for losses experienced by Icelandic bank account holders based in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. In both cases, the president refused to sign into effect the government’s legislative proposal, which triggered a constitutional clause referring the proposed legislation to a national referendum.

Other examples of executive weakness include the failure of the 2009-2013 cabinet to deliver on three important elements of its platform: a new constitution, a reform of the system managing Iceland’s fisheries, and a deal on Iceland’s accession to the European Union that could be put to a national referendum. These failures were due to internal disagreements between the coalition parties (Social Democrats and Left-Green Movement) and the obstructive tactics of the opposition, including extensive, unprecedented filibustering.

The cabinets of Gunnlaugsson (2013-2016) and Jóhannesson (2016), both with a parliamentary majority of 38-25, had no problems in implementing their policy objectives, even though some ministerial initiatives have been thwarted. The Benediktsson three-party coalition cabinet (2017-2017) had much smaller majority, the coalition controlled 32 seats and opposition parties controlled 31 seats. However, this small margin never led to bills being overturned during the coalition’s brief tenure.
Ireland
One notable and growing trend is the increased use of statutory instruments which clearly empower ministers. It is often the case that a general policy is decided in the Oireachtas, but that the legislative body then delegates the detail and implementation to a minister. This provides the minister with considerable power to shape public policy. The average annual number of statutory instruments in the 1960s was 284; this rose steadily to 445 a year in the 1990s. Between 2010 and 2016 the average annual number rose to 650. This trend plays some role in shifting some policymaking power from the legislature to the executive.

In May 2016, the incoming minority government agreed to suspend water charges and establish an expert commission on the issue. This resulted in the publication of the Report on the Funding of Domestic Public Water Services in Ireland in November 2016. The report’s two main recommendations were that there should be a constitutional provision for the public ownership of water utilities and that public water services should be funded through taxation. The report also recommended that excessive or wasteful use of water should be discouraged by charging for such use, consistent with the polluter pays principle.

While the abolition of domestic water charges reduced pressure on the government from angry members of the public, the government must find an estimated €13 billion for infrastructure improvements in the coming years.
Citations:
The 2015 Review of the Programme for Government is available here:
http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Publications/Publications_2015/Programme_for_Government_Annual_Report_2015.pdf

Michael Gallagher (2010), “The Oireachtas,’ chpt 7 of John Coakley and Michael Gallagher (eds), Politics in the Republic of Ireland. London: Routledge and PSAI Press.

Eoin O’Malley and Shane Martin (2018), ‘The Government and the Taoiseach,’ in John Coakley and Michael Gallagher (eds), Politics in the Republic of Ireland. 6th edition. London: Routledge and PSAI Press.
Israel
In 2016, the government began annually coordinating all ministerial reports regarding the implementation of governmental decisions. A team in the PMO breaks every government decision into detailed tasks, and assigns each task to the relevant ministry. Afterward, the ministers and CEOs are required to report progress on these tasks. The first complete report was issued in 2017, addressing all decisions made since 2015 (under the current government). A similar tracking mechanism can be found in “The Monitor,” a civil-public program initiated by the Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel to follow and monitor the implementation of governmental decisions. Both reports show a very high rate of implementation (over 70%).

In addition, in accordance with government decision 4085, the PMO publishes yearly working plans for line ministries. The yearly plan for 2014 was the first to publish additional detailed benchmarks for policy goals, a practice that has been repeated since that time. However, as this does not indicate progress with respect to previous years, it is difficult to track long-term progress.
While the Israeli government has been modestly efficient in achieving its policy goals, it has often done so by resorting to a highly controversial emergency law (the Arrangements Law) instead of by enacting regular legislation.

In its 43rd report, released in May 2017, the State Comptroller found that there had been fewer complaints against government bodies in 2016 than in the previous years, but that the percentage of justified complaints had increased, and continues to be high. The National Insurance Institute and the Israel Postal Company received the most criticism from the public.

However, the report also addresses the environment and water as cross-border Israeli-Palestinian issues, and draws the conclusion that there is an “absence of government policy. The government of Israel has not yet formulated a policy for cross-border environmental management in general and for the management of water pollution in particular, and has not decided on any single governmental entity to be charged with this issue and manage it with the responsible bodies. This is in spite of the far-reaching consequences of the issue, such as on Israel’s water reserves, public health and even on the political-security level. Therefore, solutions have been prevented or delayed despite sustained damage to the environment, public health and broad Israeli interest.”
Citations:
“Book of working plans 2014,” PMO website (March 2014) (Hebrew)

“Report on the implementation of governmental decisions 2016,” PMO website, http://www.pmo.gov.il/policyplanning/mimshal/Documents/dm20161607.pdf (Hebrew)

“The Monitor Project,” Citizens’ Empowerment Center, http://www.ceci.org.il/monitor

Zachria, Zvi. ‘New Application Will Allow The Public to Follow the Pace of Laws and Government Decision’s Implementations’ – The Marker, 15.7.2015 (Hebrew): http://www.themarker.com/news/1.2684691

“The State Comptroller and Ombudsman Yearly Report 2016-2015,” May 2017, (Hebrew), http://www.mevaker.gov.il/he/Reports/Report_425/acdfe4f3-7bc6-48b5-b602-7cf3200380b0/2017-67b.pdf

“Israel State Comptroller Report on Water Pollution between the State of Israel and Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip (Unofficial translation of the original Hebrew text by EcoPeace Middle East), Author: Ret. Judge Yossef Haim Shapira, Comptroller (executive summary),” http://ecopeaceme.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Comptroller-Report_2017_Summary_Translation_by_EcoPeace.pdf
Japan
In mid-2017, Abe announced that the government would use a portion of the proceeds of the planned 2019 consumption-tax increase for the purposes of free education and improved child care, rather than for public-debt reductions as initially planned. This will make it impossible to reach the original target of a balanced primary budget in 2020. With regard to restarting nuclear-power plants, a key element of the current energy policy, the government is nowhere as close as it wanted to be.

Abe may want to use the momentum gained through his coalition’s retention of two-thirds majorities in both legislative houses in the October 2017 snap election to move the process of constitutional reform ahead. However, as the population is very divided on the issue, and the LDP’s coalition partner Komeito is not in full agreement, the concrete agenda on this issue was unclear as of the time of writing.

In terms of international relations, regional tensions have relaxed somewhat since 2016, as evidenced by an increasing number of high-level meetings. The Abe government has skillfully developed good relations with U.S. President Trump, but has also had to adjust to some disadvantageous U.S. policy moves such as the United States’ departure from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Citations:
Mitsuru Obe, Japan Parliament Approves Overseas Military Expansion, The Wall Street Journal, 18 September 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/japan-parliament-approves-abe-security-bills-1442596867
Malta
Government efficiency has continued to improve. Central to this improvement has been the Prime Minister’s Office and the work of the Principal Permanent Secretary’s Office. Policy implementation is measured against agreed upon KPIs and benchmarks, policies are monitored and shortfalls highlighted. Templates are sent out to ministries with deadlines and then assessed and reviewed. Every February, the first round of audit closing meetings commence. The preparations over the last year for the EU presidency has improved public service efficiency. Ongoing training has been key. However, problems remain. Recent National Audit Reports have highlighted gross inefficiencies under the previous administration. Current assessments continue to point to persistent failings, including on inventory management, control over service providers and controls related to personal emoluments. They also note missing documentation, deficiencies in stock management and lack of adherence to public procurement regulations. Local councils’ performance was suboptimal, with the auditor’s report stating that “accounts lacked documentation, were improperly recorded, missing key components and sometimes contained conflicting figures. Effectively, this prohibited the NAO from analyzing their performance.” Nonetheless, OPM has been working on these issues and the NAO has indicated improvements.
Citations:
Gozo projects lacking good-governance rules Times of Malta 16/12/2015
Briguglio, M An F for Local Councils Times of Malta 12/12/16
Report by the Auditor General Public Accounts 2015
http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/80417/half_of_nao_recommendations_implemented_auditing_is_not_a_witchhunt#.We2pXVuCyM8
http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/environment/townscapes/79047/no_value_for_money_in_fekruna_bay_expropriation__nao#.We2pt1uCyM8
http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/79029/labour_urges_pn_to_stop_ignoring_nao_reports_pointing_fingers_at_azzopardi#.We2p4VuCyM8
Slovakia
The government manifesto of the third Fico government reiterated many goals of the previous one. Although it comprised around 70 pages, it lacked action plans, timelines and budgets. Long-due reform projects in, for example, education and health care have been or delayed or tackled in an erratic manner. The concept for the education reform was announced in December 2016, although Education Minister Plavčan only presented it in full in March 2017. But then the scandal in which he was involved and which led to his ousting put the reform on hold.
Slovenia
The Cerar government’s coalition agreement has been relatively comprehensive and more detailed than those of previous governments. However, many goals and deadlines stated in the agreement have not been met. The announced health care and education reforms have been postponed several times, and then in the middle of 2017 only limited health care changes were announced, shifting much-needed major reform to the next parliamentary term. The tax reform eventually adopted in summer 2016 has been more modest than initially announced, and some additional minor tax reform was announced also in summer 2017. On pensions, the government has agreed with the social partners only on a broad reform outline. As for privatization, the coalition agreement took a cautious approach and remained relatively vague. Given the lack of consensus among the coalition partners about the remaining role of the state, it did not come as a surprise that some privatization decisions led to cracks in the coalition. The promised privatization of Telekom Slovenije, the largest communication company in the country, fell victim to political opposition from within and outside the governing coalition. The same occurred with the promised privatization of Slovenia’s largest bank NLB, which was first postponed until 2017, and then in June 2017 Cerar government finally decided to (again) postpone the privatization, as the current market price was much too low.
Spain
The Spanish government has not set a system of benchmarks to evaluate its own performance but has been relatively successful in the implementation of major policy objectives. Two main obstacles stand in the way of the government more easily realizing its declared objectives: first, weak mechanisms of coordination with the 17 Autonomous Communities (which are responsible for many policy areas) and second, ministerial fragmentation. The latter often sees line ministries more oriented toward their individual departmental or bureaucratic interests than toward the government’s strategic objectives.

However, thanks to the significant constitutional and political resources at their disposal, the prime minister and core executive gradually built up their internal executive power between 1982 and 2015. This ultimately created conditions under which a coherent set of major objectives can be developed and policy priorities successfully achieved at the national level. The government has also gained power and autonomy as a result of the country’s EU membership. However, the current minority government’s lack of political support and growing interparty competition among the center-right parties could complicate the legislative negotiation process for the government’s policy priorities, especially regarding the approval of the budget.

Since secessionist Catalan members of parliament voted to establish an independent republic in October, the Spanish government has taken control of Catalonia, dissolved its parliament and announced new elections for December 2017. The Spanish senate granted Rajoy unprecedented powers to impose direct rule on Catalonia under article 155 of the constitution.
Citations:
October 2017, The Guardian: “Spain dissolves Catalan parliament and calls fresh elections”
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/27/spanish-pm-m ariano-rajoy-asks-senate-powers-dis miss-catalonia-president
Turkey
The government’s performance has been mixed during the review period. Finance Minister Naci Ağbal defined the 2017 budget as “growth friendly,” and foresaw a TYR 46.9 billion budget deficit and TYR 10.6 billion primary budget surplus. As of October 2017, the budget deficit had reached TYR 35 billion. Presidential and prime ministerial discretionary funds increased 73% compared to 2016.

The economy has weakened over recent years. Meanwhile, Turkey’s onetime proactive and strategic foreign and security policies have become increasingly less coherent, particularly with regard to regional conflicts. The AKP’s credibility was undermined by the party leadership’s unwillingness to accept the results of the June 2015 elections. Contradictions between the goals of political liberalization and the government’s conservative-religious ambitions have become increasingly visible. Seeking to consolidate its control over government, the AKP has instead sought to create a legal framework for its “monopolization” of power. Opposition forces inside and outside of parliament often play into the ruling party’s hands.

Governmental inefficiency is widespread, especially in relation to the economy. The first nine months following the implementation of the government’s annual economic objectives varied sharply from official budget and 2017 – 2019 medium-term fiscal plan forecasts. The recent devaluation of the Turkish lira has increased the fiscal burden on macroeconomic variables. In the current and the next (2018 – 2020) medium-term fiscal plan, greater fiscal discipline is expected. Unemployment, inflation and the budget deficit will continue to be major economic weaknesses, which will be exacerbated by population growth, refugee issues and security concerns. Results were similarly mixed in other sectors. For instance, the Ministry of Education realized most of its 43 performance objectives, while the Ministry of Health completed most of its 22 objectives for 2016. However, the Ministry of Health failed to realize two key objectives, namely human resource objectives in the health care sector and scientific publications.

No significant progress has been made concerning EU accession since 2015, when economic and financial chapters were opened. Chapters 23 and 24 are currently under blocked by Cyprus. These chapters regulate Turkey’s harmonization of fundamental rights and the judiciary with those of the European Union. Despite some signals to continue negotiations from both sides, the European Parliament in November 2016 and Germany since September 2017 have opted to suspense, and Austria has demanded a complete stop to talks.
Citations:
“İşte hükümetin bütçe performansı,” 17 October 2017, http://www.businessht.com.tr/ekonomi/haber/1311270-iste-hukumetin-butce-performansi (accessed 1 November 2017)
“Turkey challenges EU to ‘open new chapters,’” Hürriyet Daily News, 10 May 2017, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-challenges-eu-to-open-new-chapters-112952 (accessed 1 November 2017)
“Bütçe açığı ve örtülü harcamalar coştu,” 16 November 2017, Sözcü, http://www.sozcu.com.tr/2017/ekonomi/butce-acigi-ve-ortulu-harcamalar-costu-2092299/ (accessed 16 November 2017)
Ministry of Development, 2017-2019 Medium Term Programme in Macro-economic and Fiscal Targets, http://www.mod.gov.tr/Pages/content.aspx?List=16bb86d7%2Dad48%2D4f23%2Db1e3%2D56bbe5b28aaa&ID=13&Source=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Emod%2Egov%2Etr%2FPages%2FMediumTermPrograms%2Easpx&ContentTypeId=0x0100F7A44FBA3ED2844D8825963D0C0BE391 (accessed 1 November 2017)
Sağlık Bakanlığı 2014 Faaliyet Raporu, https://dosyasb.saglik.gov.tr/Eklenti/7585,raporpdf.pdf?0 (accessed 1 November 2017)
Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı, 2016 Faaliyet Raporu, https://sgb.meb.gov.tr/meb_iys_dosyalar/2017_02/28172815_2016_FR_webde_yayYmlanacak_kitap.pdf (accessed 1 November 2017)
Pelin Ünker, Ekonomide tüm hedefler şaştı, Cumhuriyet daily newspaper, 10 September 2015. (accessed 27 October 2015)
 
The government partly fails to implement its objectives or fails to implement several policy objectives.
5
Czech Rep.
The Sobotka government has tried to reconcile conflicting objectives and interests of coalition partners, but only with partial success. The growing tensions between the coalition partners, which culminated in an amendment to the conflict of interest law, against the will of ANO, and the (forced) resignation of Andrej Babiš in May 2017 further antagonized ANO and the Social Democrats. Notwithstanding this situation, the Sobotka government was able to implement a number of popular campaign promises, including the lowering of the fiscal deficit, raising of salaries in the public sector (in particular in health and education), increases in pensions and in the minimum wage, increase in police personnel, and an accelerated drawing of EU funds. However, the government failed to implement the initiated education reform. While it succeeded in expanding public R&D funding, it has only taken the first steps toward a new strategy of economic development. The effectiveness of the government’s anti-corruption legislation will be tested by what occurs after Babiš’s victory in the 2017 parliamentary elections.
Greece
Significant structural reforms have been legislated by successive Greek governments in the last seven years, but their mix and implementation were, and continue to be, uneven. Greece has implemented important labor market reforms, but progress has been less on reducing oligopoly power, reducing the regulatory burden and promoting reform in the public administration.

Policy implementation efforts have been problematic throughout the period under review as in previous periods. Examples of a lingering implementation gap include the problems still encountered by young entrepreneurs and professionals when it comes to establishing and operating a new business. The same can be claimed with regard to privatization of state-owned property, though the government seemed more willing to accept foreign investment.
Privatization targets have been repeatedly revised downwards. The country raised €500 million from asset sales in 2016, missing its bailout target by about €2 billion, mainly due to delays in completing the lease of 14 airports to a consortium led by Germany’s Fraport. Two of Greece’s biggest projects – the former Hellenicon Airport and the Eldorado Gold, together valued at about €11 billion ($12.8 billion) – have stalled on bureaucratic and legal wranglings, raising questions about the country’s ability to attract the investment desperately required for economic recovery.

On the other hand, there were other government decisions, such as pension cuts and performance-based review of civil servants’ pay, which were implemented. The implementation of such cases was due to the pressure exerted on the government by Greece’s lenders, based on the Third Economic Adjustment Program which linked policy implementation with delivery of loans to Greece.
Hungary
The Orbán governments have been quite successful in consolidating political power, centralizing policymaking and weakening the remaining checks and balances. At the same time, they have largely failed to meet broader goals such as fostering sustainable economic growth or increasing employment in the private sector. The low degree of government efficiency has been illustrated by frequent policy changes in all policy fields and by the lack of coordination of policy fields, caused also by selection of personnel based on party loyalty, not on merit. A central problem has been the implementation of new bills and regulations. Overhasty policymaking has led to incoherent and contradictory legal texts, causing extreme difficulties for local and county administrations. The government’s low level of efficiency has been acknowledged by PMO minister Lázár himself several times.
South Korea
The Park Geun-hye government was widely criticized for ineffective policy implementation despite having a majority in parliament until the 2016 parliamentary election. President Moon has promised to implement his agenda successfully by developing 100 policy goals. Yet despite his strong personal mandate deriving from his decisive election victory and strong popularity, Moon’s Democratic Party lacks a majority in parliament. Nevertheless, the president has far-reaching powers, and Moon has already implemented several important measures such as the increase in the minimum wage and the creation of more stable jobs in the public sector. As of the time of writing, the new president had been rather successful in implementing policies, enjoying a prolonged honeymoon period thanks in part to the massive discrediting of the conservative opposition due to the Park scandal. However, Moon has also abandoned some of his original agenda items, such as the termination of construction on two nuclear-power plants. After initially being suspended, construction was restarted after criticism from business groups and a vote by a panel commissioned to represent the public opinion. Overall, it is far too early to evaluate the new administration’s performance when it comes to the implementation of policies.
Citations:
“S. Korea ‘bureaucracy risk’ derails economic innovation,” Maeil Business Newspaper, March 26, 2014
“Park’s approval rating hits record low of 5% “, Korea Times, November 4, 2016, https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2016/11/116_217549.html
4
Croatia
During his first year in office, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković announced far-reaching reforms. The HDZ’s election program served as the basis for a relatively comprehensive National Reform Program presented to the European Commission in April 2017. However, the program lacked a clear schedule and its implementation has suffered from the Agrokor crisis and the mid-2017 change in the governing coalition. The tax reform adopted at the end of 2016 was the only major reform implemented during Plenković’s first year in office. However, even this reform has been implemented only partially, as the government gave up the already prepared introduction of a property tax in June 2017.
Romania
The Grindeanu government succeeded in implementing a number of campaign promises, including tax cuts as well substantial increases in the minimum wage, wages in the public sector and pensions. It soon turned out, however, that these measures put a heavy strain on the budget, so that other promises, such as raising public investment, had to be broken. The strong rifts within the coalition and massive public protests further complicated policymaking. Until the end of 2017, the attempts – first by the Grindeanu, then by the Tudose government – to decriminalize corruption, to weaken the DNA and to reduce the independence of the judiciary – failed.
USA
In comparison to parliamentary systems that have an expectation of nearly automatic legislative approval of government bills, policy implementation in the U.S. separation-of-powers system is presumed to depend on coalition building, negotiation and relatively broad consensus. In the current, highly polarized state of the major political parties, the ability to act depends heavily on whether partisan control of the presidency and Congress is unified (with the same party controlling the presidency, House, and Senate) or divided.

From 2011 to 2016, with a Democratic president, Republicans controlling one or both houses of Congress and an aggressive far-right (“Tea Party”) Republican faction that was often able to block action, the U.S. government had profound difficulty in accomplishing any policy goals. The two Congresses of this period were the least productive (i.e., enacting the fewest laws) of any Congress in the modern era (since the 1920s pre-depression era).

The legislative experience of Trump’s first year, however, was unprecedented. The president and Republicans in Congress identified three major legislative priorities – repealing and replacing “Obamacare” (President Obama’s health care reform), adopting a major infrastructure rebuilding program, and major tax cuts and tax reform. Trump also wanted major restrictions on immigration (especially from Muslim countries), the renegotiation of major trade agreements and the building of a wall along the border with Mexico. Republicans in Congress resolved to avoid negotiating with Democrats on these measures, hoping to avoid compromises that would be unacceptable to the Republican base.

In fact, Republicans themselves were sufficiently divided that legislative successes were very limited. Of the numerous policy objectives, only a seriously flawed tax cut (including modest tax reforms) was adopted. Given that the act massively increases long-term budget deficits and includes unpopular tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, it is likely to be amended significantly before many of its provisions go into effect. Until the enactment of this tax cut in December 2017, Trump’s first year was shaping to be the first time in modern history when a new president had failed to secure even a single piece of legislation.

Trump’s objectives on immigration were pursued by administrative means, without legislation. Trump was successful in sharply increasing deportations of undocumented immigrants, primarily from Mexico. Due to judicial interventions, he was not successful in implementing a ban on entry by Muslims or people from select Muslim countries. Regulatory agencies withdrew large numbers of Obama-era regulations, but whether these decisions will hold up against judicial appeal remains uncertain. At the end of the first year, very few of Trump’s policies had been adopted in a manner that promises to be enduring.
3
Cyprus
The European Commission has praised the Cyprian government for its impressive success in containing the fiscal and financial crisis and achieving growth. Notwithstanding, the government’s implementation of clauses of the MoU signed with creditors relating to critical and long-term actions, such as sectoral shifts in the economy, reforms, and privatization, has been slow and inadequate. Furthermore, while a NHS was due to be fully operational in 2016, necessary legislation was only passed in 2017.

More decisive reforms would alleviate the negative impacts on people’s welfare and reduce the risk of poverty and exclusion. While the government’s policies improved economic confidence and competitiveness, the markets remain hesitant.
Citations:
1. Statement of the staff of EU Commission and the ECB… Cyprus, 29.09.2017, http://www.ecb.europa.eu/press/pr/date/2017/html/ecb.pr170929.en.html
Mexico
The government’s ability to implement policy is geographically and functionally uneven. While there are an increasing number of islands of technical expertise and competence, overall policy implementation is still severely hampered by several factors. The most significant of these have been the following four challenges: (a) the state’s lack of financial resources due to insufficient taxation capacity, (b) the organizational weakness of subnational governments and the decentralized agencies overseen by federal ministries, (c) high levels of crime and impunity, and (d) the ineffective rule of law.

The central government has been able to find the necessary financial resources for prestige projects and highly visible policy priorities. Overall, however, the state remains unable to provide basic public goods, including education, public health and security, across the territory. Mexico is a federal country, and the quality of governance by state and municipal governments varies enormously. Some municipalities are professionally organized, but others lack basic capacities to provide those public goods that fall within their local responsibility. Until recently, municipal authorities were elected for three-year terms of office with no re-election permitted. This system created negative incentives, as officeholders were not rewarded for considering long-term challenges. However, a recent constitutional reform now allows municipalities to set their own term limits with respect to re-election.

While the president has embarked on several major reform projects, all of these initiatives remain underfunded and most have stalled during the implementation phase. Given President Nieto’s historically low approval ratings, it appears unlikely that his administration will be able to get these reforms back on track during its final year in office.
 
The government largely fails to implement its policy objectives.
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