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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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 (the European Union, NATO, Council of Europe and 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.

The NAP2020 mid-term evaluation noted that despite some successes in achieving several goals set out in the plan (e.g., ICT and e-governance), other goals have not been achieved and will likely not be achieved before the end of 2020. For example, in the science, research and innovation policy field, the level of investment has continued to decline, in stark contrast to the projected investment in 2014. This creates the conditions that lead to weak performance, and the outflow of knowledge and highly skilled professionals to other countries (i.e., “brain drain”). Similarly, developments in general education have been insufficient as has the reduction of general emigration levels .
Citations:
1.
New Zealand
Throughout the review period, the Labour-NZ First government held minority status, though the Green party gave support and confidence to the 55 seat minority-coalition government. This resulted in a 63 majority in parliament, enough to ensure that Prime Minister Ardern (Labour party) maintained the confidence of the unicameral legislature.
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, the minority-coalition governments has been relatively successful at implementing its agenda. The focus of the government’s policy priorities included: climate change; building a strong and competitive zero carbon economy; funding major health policy projects and educational and housing reforms; reducing the incidences of child poverty and domestic violence; strenghtening relations with the EU, supporting TPP-11 and recalibrating NZ’s relations with South Pacific island states through a more proactive and more partner-oriented developmental cooperation policy.
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 225,000. 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 rather political. The previous red-green government did not control a majority of seats in the parliament. As a consequence, policy proposals had to be negotiated with the opposition parties. If all opposition parties united against the government, the government’s proposals were defeated. The complexity of this parliamentary situation significantly complicated the policy process. This complexity continues since the 2018 elections, where the chances for a stable majority government appear very slim.
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
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.

During its first year, the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition has rather successfully overcome the traditional pattern of “opposition within the coalition.” The strategic formula “message control” has prevented internal coalition conflicts becoming public. However, some recent developments indicate that this may change. For example, some ÖVP-members of the parliamentary committee that is looking into the performance of the FPÖ-led Ministry of the Interior demonstrated their unhappiness with the ministry’s performance regarding a police action directed against the “Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismusbekämpfung” (BVT). In the long run, this may lead to the return of the old pattern in which one governing party has little interest in the success of its coalition partner.
Citations:
During the first months of its existence, the OeVP – FPOe coalition has tried to overcome (until now rather successfully) the pattern of “opposition within the government.” The overall mantra of “message control” has prevented that conflicts within the government became public. This may change as some indications especially concerning the FPOe-led ministry of the interior demonstrate. The parliamentary committee estabished to look into a specific event (police activities directed against the “Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismusbekämpfung,” BVT) show that the OeVP (por at least some members of the OeVP in parilament) are rather unhappy with the FPOe-minister’s performance. On the long run, this could lead to the return of the traditional pattern: one governing party has not interest in the success of the other governing party.
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.

Three quarters of the way through its term, the Liberal government has already implemented many of the policies that the party campaigned on in the October 2015 election (e.g., a gender-balanced cabinet, reinstatement of the long-form census, a new child benefit system, progressive tax reform, pension reform, approving major infrastructure projects and increasing the independence of Statistics Canada). Most recently, the government has legalized cannabis consumption, made further changes to the tax code and made preparations to implement a carbon tax in provinces without an equivalent program.

Yet, many social problems targeted by public policy (e.g., 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.

Reports from the Office of the Auditor General provide numerous examples of the government’s failure to implement its own policy programs. The latest series of reports (spring 2018) were no exception, but were unusual in that the auditor general expressed serious concerns regarding “fundamental failures of project management and project oversight,” citing “incomprehensible failures” in the design and implementation of the Phoenix pay system (for government employees) and various Indigenous programs, both of which were passed from government to government. His conclusion was that Canada has a “broken government culture.”
Citations:
Office of the Auditor General of Canada, “Message from the Auditor General of Canada on the 2018 Spring Reports of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada”, available at http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_oag_201805_00_e_43032.html
Denmark
The Danish government administration has a reasonable track-record in implementing its agenda. 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. There are now proposals to abolish the regions, which are largely responsible for hospitals, as part of a health care policy reform. The government wants the reform to be adopted before the next parliamentary election, which must take place before June 2019.
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
The Basic Principles of the Government Coalition 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 increase the population. The Government Action Plan 2016 – 2019 and a user-friendly overview of the major accomplishments in each policy area are published on the government website. By the end of 2017, the government had accomplished 83% of the planned tasks. Among them was an ambitious administrative reform that reduced the number of municipalities from 213 to 79 and increased the median number of inhabitants per municipality from 1,887 to 7,739 people – a task that several previous coalitions had failed to accomplish.

As a joint effort between the think tank 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 the government’s performance every three months along five dimensions. Overall, the evaluation had been critical of the pace of administrative reform. However, the panel’s activities seem to have been put on hold and the latest evaluation of administrative reform (the amalgamation of municipalities) dates back to March 2018. Their activities and the most personnel have been funneled into a Governance Reform Foundation (Riigireformi SA), a think tank established in May 2018 to generate and lobby for proposals rather than monitor government.
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, with updated versions published in 2017 and 2018, and 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: Government action plan 2018-2019.”, http://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/160985/29_18_Finland_a_land_of_Solutions_2018-2019_EN.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Germany
The current government finalized its coalition agreement in February 2018 and it is too early to comprehensively assess the implementation rate. Notwithstanding the government’s salient dispute over migration issues, the grand coalition has started to implement numerous important projects from the coalition agreement. Examples concern pension policies (e.g., more generous pensions for mothers, a double guarantee on the maximum contribution rate and a minimum pension level), the reduction of unemployment insurance contributions, the improvement of care-related benefits, a new regulation on housing rents (“Mietpreisbremse”) or an increase for investment spending in the budget. It is disputed among experts whether these measures are well-targeted or sufficient to address the country’s long-run challenges. But these examples prove that the current grand coalition like the previous government is able to implement policies largely in line with its initial objectives.
Norway
The current government is a minority government, which depends on other political parties for parliamentary support. A negotiated agreement serves as a platform for a government, but the agreement has no formal influence over budgetary policies. Thus, Norwegian governments face a tradeoff between forming a heterogeneous majority government or a homogeneous minority government.

In general, 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, particularly to its structural reforms to regional policy.
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Lithuania
During the fast process of transition and accession to the EU, Lithuanian governments’ narrow focus on this task produced a lag in policy implementation. The performance of the three most recent governments has been mixed. Kubilius government 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 (2012 – 2016) 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 (formed in 2016) 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 as well as tax and pension reforms. The current government was able to achieve this progress despite its diminished parliamentary majority following a split within the Social Democratic party’s parliamentary group. Coalition politics, shifting political attention, the conflicting strategies of various advocacy coalitions and weak political leadership frequently explain the government’s failure to implement major policy objectives. For example, the consolidation of higher education institutions is deviating from the government’s initial plan as several amendments were made both during parliamentary deliberations and the actual implementation. Also, the promising proclamations of health care reform announced by the Skvernelis government have not been followed by decisive implementation plans that improve the efficiency and effectiveness of health care in the country.

The government should also continue improving the effectiveness and efficiency of its spending. In the World Bank’s 2017 Worldwide Governance Indicators, Lithuania scored 80 out of 100 for government effectiveness, down from 81 in 2016. 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 its 2018 report, the European Commission recommended improving the efficiency of public investment as a means of stimulating overall productivity growth in the country.
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.
COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT, country report Lithuania 2018: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/2018-european-semester-country-report-lithuania-en.pdf
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 went into service 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 23 Oct. 2018.

“ Revivez le voyage inaugural avec le couple grand-ducal.” Luxemburger Wort, 10 December 2017. www.wort.lu/fr/luxembourg/tram-funiculaire-et-deux-nouvelles-gares-revivez-le-voyage-inaugural-avec-le-couple-grand-ducal-5a2cfc34c1097cee25b7a01b. Accessed 23 Oct. 2018.
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. As in the previous year, there were a number of cases in 2018 in which President Duda vetoed government legislation, the most prominent such issue being the new electoral law for European Parliament elections. In response to pressure from abroad, the PiS government backed away from its original plans to cap foreign media-ownership stakes and change retirement rules for Supreme Court justices.
Portugal
The current government is guided by the government program, Programa do XXI Governo Constitucional 2015 – 2019. The government has 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 and BE 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 also been able to successfully reconcile EU demands and world market scrutiny regarding budgetary consolidation, with the no-less-intense demands of its parliamentary allies regarding austerity alleviation. During the period under review, the government was mostly successful in negotiating these pressures and advancing its policy agenda.
However, Jose Maria Sousa Rego, who was general secretary of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers between 2002 and 2016, wrote a book and has given extensive interviews in which he raised serious questions about the policy achievements of Portuguese governments.
Citations:
Programa do XXI Governo Constitucional, 2015 – 2019.

Jose Maria Sousa Rego, “No centro do power-Governo e Administração Publica em Portugal” Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos, 2018
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 first year, the Rutte III cabinet realized five of its 36 officially announced legislative initiatives; two of which simply involved abolishing (consultative referendum, fiscal reduction for home-owners) existing laws. 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, anti-discrimination, and tax and pension –policy initiatives that remain unrealized one year into the Rutte III cabinet’s term. Inspectorates in the building, education and health care sectors are considered weak. It is a similar situation for consumer and privacy protection, especially the digitalization of citizen registrations and accessibility of online-only government services. Nevertheless, the Rutte II government justifiably claimed 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

Financieel Dagblad, ACM verliest geloofwaardigheid, 6 October 2018

De Correspondent, De overheid wil dat we voor elkaar zorgen maar dezelfde overheid maakt dat onmogelijk, 28 August 2018

NRC-Handelsblad, De bouw leert te weinig van ongelukken, 19 October 2018

NRC-Handelsblad, Algoritmen. Raad van State vreest dat digitalisering van de overheid te ver wordt doorgevoerd, 7 September 2018
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.

Persistent problems in the National Health Service have had to be addressed by emergency funding. In addition, disputes over issues such as a third runway at Heathrow or the (slow) progress of construction of the HS2 high-speed rail-link to the northern England have been affected by the impact on individual minister’s constituencies. Government has also struggled to introduce major welfare reforms, notably Universal Credit. The Institute for Government (IfG) notes an increase in the number of major projects where delivery is “in doubt” or “unachievable” compared with five years earlier. IfG has found that, among other challenges, Brexit has distracted the civil service from ensuring its own effective operation. The sad, untimely death of Sir Jeremy Heywood, the former head of the Home Civil Service, has also forced a change in the leadership of the civil service.
Citations:
https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/Whitehall%20Monitor%202019%20WEB1.pdf
6
Australia
In September 2015, Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister. The transition 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 seats in the Senate 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 followed, but in 2017 and 2018 the government enjoyed some success in negotiating with the minor parties to pass legislation. That did not, however, prevent the Liberal party from ousting Turnbull and installing Scott Morrison as the new prime minister.
Citations:
http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/brilliant-and-fearless-but-paul-keating-was-right-about-turnbull-20090626-czt7.html
Bulgaria
Bulgarian governments avoid setting policy-performance benchmarks that are available to the public. The main exceptions are within the area of macroeconomic policy, especially regarding the budget and compliance with the high-profile requirements of EU membership. While the government has succeeded in controlling the fiscal deficit and public debt, it has not been successful in its long-standing objective of joining the Schengen Area. It has been partially successful in the objective of exiting the macroeconomic imbalances procedure given that its imbalances are no longer assessed as excessive. Another important policy objective – integration into the euro zone and European banking union – has been furthered somewhat with the government successfully negotiating with its EU partners a clear roadmap outlining key measures to be introduced. Budgeting in Bulgaria remains primarily based on historical expenditures and does not involve programmatic elements, which would necessitate benchmarking and measurement.
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). For example, the former government of Michelle Bachelet 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. The former government launched a constitutional reform debate. However, by the end of the period under review, no concrete proposals regarding possible next steps had been presented.
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. 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. After 18 months in power, the new administration has been very active in adopting and implementing its policy reform agenda. Some changes have already materialized, for instance, in the fields of education, health care and labor regulations. However, the key issue remains the capacity of the new administration to increase employability, reduce budget deficits and public debt, and sustain economic growth. From this point of view, 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 (ICESAVE). 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 (January 2017 – September 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. The current coalition cabinet of Jakobsdóttir, which holds a majority of 35 out of 63 parliamentary seats, has so far not had any problems of this kind – even though two Left-Green Movement members of parliament have declared that they will not support the current coalition.
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 2017, the average annual number rose to 772. 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.

Ireland’s aging water and sewage system infrastructure necessitates significant future capital expenditure which the electorate is still not prepared to face. 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 accordance with government decision 4085, the PMO publishes yearly working plans for line ministries. The yearly plan for 2014 was the first to also publish detailed benchmarks for policy goals. However, as it does not show progress made over previous years, it is difficult to track long-term progress. Prominent topics on the government’s agenda in recent years (e.g., the housing supply, the cost of living, the unrecognized settlements for the Bedouin population and illegal immigration) have not been resolved or resulted in substantial achievements. In fact, a large proportion of government decisions are not implemented. Several initiatives for monitoring the implementation of government decisions were rejected. Therefore, the PMO director general created a mechanism for monitoring the implementation of approved law proposals and government decisions. Through this mechanism, the director general has ordered ministries to report on the implementation process. Thus, the PMO found that, in many cases, the orders regarding the implementation of government decisions did not define which ministry would oversee the decision’s execution. Therefore, the PMO suggested that those orders should be written more clearly. In addition, there were other attempts to follow the implementation of government decisions through NGOs, such as a Citizens’ Empowerment Center application.

In recent years, the government evaluates policy implementation in two ways. First, using its own reports, such as the government working plan. According to these reports, since 2017 and more so in 2018, policy objectives were achieved in accordance to the goals set during the previous year. In 2016, the Israeli PMO released, for the first time, a final report on the execution of government decisions, with another report published in 2017. The reports include all the decisions made by the 34th government, their themes and statuses. According to the latest report, about 75% of government decisions were achieved and 66% of all objectives fully achieved. In this regard, the establishment of Katef (see section 2.6) is another important step for the improvement of policy implementation. Second, the government uses reports made by NGOs, but these are often unsystematic and cover specific issues rather than providing a broad examination of policy implementation as a whole.
Citations:
Arlozrov, Merav. ‘Netanyahu’s Government: The Tale – And The Surprising Numbers’ – The Marker, 9.6.16 (Hebrew):
https://www.themarker.com/news/1.2970895

“Aspects of planning, measurements and control in government proposals brought to government’s discussion,” September 2008 (Hebrew)“

Book of working plans 2014,” PMO website (March 2014) (Hebrew):

“Deputy chancellor of the Bank of Israel, Dr. Karnit Flug, in the agenda forum meeting: where are we in achieving social-economic government goals?,” Bank of Israel website 16.4.2012 (Hebrew)

Execution Report of Governmental Decisions – Final Report of 2017, PMO Website, 2017, (Hebrew):
http://www.pmo.gov.il/policyplanning/mimshal/Documents/dm2017.pdf

“Financial stability report,” Bank of Israel, June 2014 (Hebrew).
Final Report of 2017, Execution Reports on Government Decisions, PMO Website, 2017

“Hok Ha-Hesderim,” The Knesset website (Hebrew)
https://main.knesset.gov.il/About/Lexicon/Pages/hesderim.aspx

Kashti, Or, “The government made decisions, but no one monitors its compliance,” Haaretz 6.2.2015 (Hebrew):
http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/politics/.premium-1.2558823

“Meeting the Goals: These are the worst ministries in the government,” The Marker, 2018, https://www.themarker.com/allnews/1.5956091

“Monitory policy report 2014 – first half,” Bank of Israel website 4.8.2014:
http://www.boi.org.il/he/NewsAndPublications/RegularPublications/Pages/doch-mm/IMF201401h.aspx (Hebrew)
http://www.themarker.com/news/1.2970895

‘New Application Will Allow The Public to Follow the Pace of Laws and Government Decision’s Implementations’ – The Marker, 15.7.15 (Hebrew):
http://www.themarker.com/news/1.2684691

“Report: Government performance has improved - but National Insurance is still in danger,” Walla News, 2018
https://finance.walla.co.il/item/3145866

Robinson, Eyal, “Implementation of policy as a key in planning cycle and decision-making at the national level” Citizens Empowerment Center in Israel, July 2014 (Hebrew)

“What Can the Government Learn From the Air Force,” The Marker, 2018
https://www.themarker.com/opinion/.premium-1.6359711

Working Plan Book 2018-2019, PMO Office, February 2018 (Hebrew),
http://www.plans.gov.il/pdf2018/index.html#14

“Yearly report 64a,” State Comptroller official publication 15.10.2013:
http://www.mevaker.gov.il/he/Reports/Pages/113.aspx (Hebrew)Zachria, Zvi.
Italy
As 2018 was an election year, not much could be done in terms of implementing new policies by the then incumbent Gentiloni government. The Gentiloni government continued to sensitively conduct budgetary policy, respecting EU rules (under the close scrutiny of the European Commission) and promoting economic recovery. The Gentiloni government also succeeded in reducing the number of immigrants arriving in Italy by sea from North Africa by adopting a more active policy of establishing diplomatic agreements with North African countries. The formation of the new Conte government, following the elections, has proved rather difficult and the policy differences between the two coalition parties have made the swift implementation of their policy platforms problematic. Under the new government, policy implementation has been most prompt with regards to blocking the influx of immigrants, as demanded by the Northern League and even at the price of antagonizing Italy’s European partners. However, in other fields (e.g., pension reform and the new “citizenship income”), preparatory work has proven more awkward and uncertain.
The most important and highly discussed policy initiative of the new government is the budgetary project, which has opened a direct and substantial conflict with the European Union. The consequences of this conflict will only become clear over the next year.
Several important policies inserted in the government program were a simple copy of electoral promises (formulated in order to capture votes without a careful indication of the details and costs involved) and required extensive work to transform them into workable policies.
Citations:
http://www.programmagoverno.gov.it/media/3877/report-sullo-stato-di-attuazione-all8-luglio-2018.pdf
Japan
With respect to the government’s economic-policy goals, the period of mild deflation seems to have been overcome. However, major aspects of the economic program remain unrealized. Most critically, the announced structural reforms have not been carried out as described. Both within the labor market and beyond, the reforms implemented have been too indecisive. As a consequence, economic growth remains weak, and the 2% inflation goal remains unrealized. The volume of outstanding government debt is still the highest in the world, and plans to achieve a balanced primary budget had to be postponed until 2025.

In the area of social policy, many longer-term issues continue to linger. This includes efforts to realize the full potential of womenomics, improve income distribution, and adjust pension and other welfare policies to the ageing society.

As of the time of writing, Abe had also failed as yet to achieve his primary goal of constitutional revision. The governing coalition retained a two-thirds majority in both legislative houses in the October 2017 snap election, offering a rare window of opportunity for constitutional change. Following Abe’s election to a third and final term as LDP president in autumn 2018, he indicated plans to present concrete proposals for reform in 2019. However, the population is very divided on the issue, and the LDP’s coalition partner, Komeito, is not in full agreement on the issue. The revision of the constitution thus still remains an open issue six years into Abe’s premiership.

In terms of international relations, regional tensions have relaxed somewhat since 2016. For example, Abe and Chinese president Xi Jinping conducted a successful meeting in September 2018. Abe has skillfully established a personal rapport with U.S. President Trump, although it remains unclear whether this will translate into tangible policy results.
Citations:
Kaori Kaneko, Japan’s Abe gets middling marks on his economic performance, Reuters, 12 September 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-economy-poll/japans-abe-gets-middling-marks-on-his-economic-performance-from-analysts-poll-idUSKCN1LU0FB
Malta
Government efficiency has continued to improve, although strong economic growth and the government’s ambitious plans have created challenges for the administration. 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. In October 2018, the PMO and the Ministry of Finance stated that 79% of measures announced in the previous year had been successfully implemented. Ongoing training has been key.
However, problems remain. Recent National Audit reports have continued to highlight failures and inefficiencies under the previous and present administrations. Gaps include insufficient control over service providers and a lack of controls related to personal emoluments, missing documentation, deficiencies in stock management, and a lack of adherence to public-procurement regulations. Local councils’ performance remains sub-optimal, although reforms are now being developed.
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
The following reports are obtained here http://nao.gov.mt/en/recent-publications
Performance Audit: An evaluation of the regulatory function of the Office of the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations -
REPORT BY THE AUDITOR GENERAL ON THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS 2017 -
An investigation of matters relating to the contracts awarded to ElectroGas Malta Ltd by Enemalta Corporation
Report by the Auditor General on the Workings of Local Government for year 2017 -
Performance Audit: A Strategic Overview on the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture’s Inspectorate Function -
Follow-up Audit: Follow-up Reports, 2018 by the National Audit Office -
Times of Malta 05/02/18 Dirt in cleaning contracts? OLAF asked to probe ‘corruption’ at St Vincent De Paul Home
Documents claiming abuse sent anonymously
Spain
The Spanish government has never instituted a system of benchmarks to evaluate its own performance. However, thanks to its constitutional powers and single-party nature, it has traditionally been successful in the implementation of major policy objectives. Until 2015, two obstacles existed: first, the weakness of the coordination mechanisms with the 17 autonomous regions that are responsible for most policy areas, and second, the high degree of ministerial fragmentation. In recent years, and particularly during the period under review, the governing party’s parliamentary weakness has become a much greater obstacle, rendering the government incapable of implementing some of its strategic objectives, especially with regard to securing approval of the annual budget.

Nevertheless, a major success with regard to effective implementation was achieved during the period under review, associated with the Catalan crisis. In October 2017, article 155 of the constitution was activated (a kind of federal coercion clause); this produced snap regional elections imposed by the central government, and effectively led to direct central-government rule in Catalonia until May 2018.
Citations:
October 2017, The Guardian: Spain dissolves Catalan parliament,
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/27/-pm-m ariano-rajoy-asks-senate-powers-dis miss-catalonia-president
May 2018, The Guardian: Catalonia’s parliament elects hardline secessionist
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/14/catalonia-parliament-elects-hardline-nationalist-as-president
Turkey
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.
Citations:
“İşte hükümetin bütçe performansı,” 17 October 2017, http://www.businessht.com.tr/ekonomi/haber/1311270-iste-hukumetin-butce-performansi (accessed 1 November 2018)
“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 2018)
“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 1 November 2018)
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 2018)
Sağlık Bakanlığı 2014 Faaliyet Raporu, https://dosyasb.saglik.gov.tr/Eklenti/7585,raporpdf.pdf?0 (accessed 1 November 2018)
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 2018)
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
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%. In 2018, employment rates remained flat, even though they are about 5 percentage points below the euro zone 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. The government has restricted access to early retirement, which may have contributed to the slight uptick in the employment rate.

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 reduce headline corporate tax rates. The jury is still out regarding the overall effectiveness of these reforms.

A second objective has been to reform the pension system. The short-term policy objective was to tighten early retirement rules. For 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.

The fifth objective was much broader and concerns energy, environment and science policy. Ministers in this area are comparatively weak within their respective parties and achievements have been dismal.

Although Belgium was one of the first EU member states to announce that it was phasing-out nuclear power in 2003, it is still heavily reliant on nuclear energy and fossil fuels (44.5% and 41.5% respectively, with solar and wind power contributing some 11%). Previous governments were forced to extend the operations of aging nuclear plants due to potential energy supply shortages and the current government has been no exception to this scenario. Worse, the current government has allowed power companies to let the situation degrade substantially. (We suspect power companies are letting nuclear facilities degrade as a tool to negotiate additional maintenance subsidies). Indeed, it became apparent in October 2018 that most nuclear plants would be unable to operate for the majority of the 2018/19 winter.
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

https://lenergeek.com/2018/08/09/belgique-sortie-nucleaire/
https://lenergeek.com/2018/11/12/belgique-penurie-electricite-nucleaire/
https://plus.lesoir.be/181891/article/2018-10-02/la-penurie-delectricite-en-cinq-questions
https://www.premier.be/fr/%C2%AB-je-ne-laisserai-personne-torpiller-le-pacte-%C3%A9nerg%C3%A9tique-le-travail-continue%C2%BB
Czechia
The effectiveness of the first Babiš government suffered from the lack of a parliamentary majority. The program of the second Babiš government, published on June 27, 2018, is mostly a continuation of the previous government priorities, with some popular measures added that cater to ANO voters. The government has been able to implement the program in cases involving simple-to-implement policies not requiring broader consultation and which were close to the aims of its Social Democrat coalition partners. The promise of cheap transport for young people and pensioners was implemented quickly. It remains to be seen whether more complex programmatic points which require broader public consultation and consensus will prove as easy to implement. It also remains to be seen whether promises on social policy and on continued pay increases for workers in education will prove compatible with promises for reductions in direct taxes.
Greece
Significant structural reforms have been legislated by successive Greek governments in the last eight 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 challenges still faced by young entrepreneurs and professionals establishing and operating a new business, given frequent and unpredictable changes in taxation. The same holds with regard to the privatization of state-owned property, though the government, officially at least, appeared more willing to accept foreign investment. Although the lease of 14 airports to a consortium led by Germany’s Fraport was finally completed in the period under review, two of Greece’s biggest projects – the real estate investment project on land of the former Hellenikon International Airport (in a suburb southwest of Athens) and the Eldorado Gold company’s investment in mining operations (in northern Greece), together valued at about €11 billion ($12.8 billion) – continued to stall because of bureaucratic and legal wrangling. In fact, Eldorado Gold’s investment has been suspended by the investors and they have filed a non-judicial request for payment of approximately €750 million with the Hellenic Republic, citing the Greek government’s continuous delays. All this raises 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 a performance-based review of civil servants’ pay, which were implemented. The implementation of such measures was owed to continuous 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 between 2015 and 2018.
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 long-term sustainable economic growth or increasing productivity and innovation 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 the key policy fields, caused by selection of personnel based on party loyalty, not on merit, and by putting ideology over problem solving. A central problem has been the poor implementation of new bills and regulations. Overhasty policymaking has led to incoherent and contradictory laws and regulations, making things very difficult for local and county administrations. A case in point is family policy, where the central goal of stopping the decline in population numbers has not been achieved, despite the fact that various measures have been implemented since 2010.
Slovakia
The government manifesto of the third Fico government reiterated many goals of his previous ones. Although it comprised around 70 pages, it lacked action plans, timelines and budgets. After the reshuffling of the government in March 2018, the new prime minister did not formulate new policies goals but declared to adhere to the existing manifesto. The implementation of the manifesto has been limited. Long-due reform projects in education and health care have been or delayed or tackled in an erratic manner. The same applies to the promised improvement of the public transport infrastructure, as highway and railway construction has been subject to several delays. In November 2018, the governing coalition withdrew (for reasons that remain unclear) from parliamentary discussion a draft of Slovakia’s new defense and security strategy, which was supposed to replace its valid but highly outdated 2005 strategy.
Slovenia
The Cerar government’s coalition agreement was relatively comprehensive and more detailed than those of previous governments. However, many goals and deadlines stated in the agreement were not met, as the government’s reform propensity abated over the course of its term. The proposed health care and education reforms were postponed several times. The tax reform eventually adopted in summer 2016 was more modest than initially announced. On pensions, the Cerar government agreed with the social partners on a broad reform outline, but largely refrained from committing to more specific measures. With regard to 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 Slovenija, 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 postponed several times. In 2017 and 2018, the government became increasingly preoccupied with its two large-scale investment projects.
South Korea
The Moon administration has shown slight improvements over its predecessor with regard to the implementation of policies, although implementation still falls far short of the president’s ambitious goals. Moon has developed a very detailed list of 100 policy goals that he wants to implement during his tenure. Yet the 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 implemented several important measures such as the increase in the minimum wage, the creation of more stable jobs in the public sector and the reduction of the maximum allowed work week to 52 hours. However, Moon has also postponed or abandoned some of his original agenda items, such as the constitutional reform designed to decentralize power, and the promised termination of construction on two nuclear-power plants. Recently, after criticism from businesses, President Moon has backpedaled on some of the implemented policies, promising to allow companies more “flexibility” in enforcing the maximum allowed work time, and saying his administration would reconsider further minimum-wage hikes.
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 was implemented only partially, as the government gave up the already prepared introduction of a property tax in June 2017. As for pensions and health care, the Plenković government came up with reforms only in autumn 2018. The announced reform of public administration has progressed slowly.

The limited effectiveness of the Plenković government is also reflected in the 2018 European Commission’s European Semester report. According to the report, the level of implementation of the recommendations submitted to successive Croatian governments between 2014 and 2017 (i.e., Milanović, Orešković and Plenković governments) is rather low. Only 5% of the recommendations were fully implemented and substantial progress was made in 12% of them, which is less than one-fifth of all the recommendations submitted. Some progress was made in 31% of the recommendations and very limited progress in 33% of them. There was no progress at all in the remaining 19% of the recommendations.
Citations:
European Commission (2018): Country report Croatia 2018 Including an In-Depth Review of the prevention and correction of macroeconomic imbalances. SWD(2018) 209 final, Brussels (https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/2018-european-semester-country-repor t-croatia-en.pdf).
Cyprus
In their fall 2018 reports, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF praised the government for the impressive growth rates and economic recovery brought about from tourism, services, and building activities. They also noted, among others, improvements in employment and in addressing problems related to non-performing loans (NPLs). As a result, Cyprus is back to investment grade BBB-. Progress on NPLs was achieved by increasing the public debt. Success remains mainly sectoral; sustainability depends on government actions on critical issues. Long-term sustained effort is needed in order to shift economic activity to new sectors, to make structural and other reforms of the administration and judicial system, and proceed with privatizations. Similarly, the process related to introducing a national health system needs to be expedited.

Reforms may further benefit the people, alleviate negative impacts on their welfare and reduce inequalities, and the risk of poverty and social exclusion. While the government’s policies improved economic confidence and competitiveness, the market climate remains reserved.
Citations:
1. Statement of the staff of EU Commission and the ECB… Cyprus, 28.09.2018, https://www.ecb.europa.eu/press/pr/date/2018/html/ecb.pr180928.en.html
2. Cyprus: Staff Concluding Statement of the 2018 Article IV Mission, IMF, 5 October 2018, https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2018/10/05/mcs10518-cyprus-staff-concluding-statement-of-the-2018-article-iv-mission
Romania
The Tudose and the Dăncilă governments have not been very effective. While they have relentlessly tried to strengthen the government’s control over the judiciary and to weaken the DNA, they have failed to fulfill major campaign promises. The resignation of Prime Minister Mihai Tudose in January 2018 was prompted by widespread perceptions both within the governing coalition and among the public of unmet promises regarding tax cuts, wage increases and pensions.
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 a 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.

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 program), adopting a major infrastructure rebuilding program, and tax reforms involving major tax cuts. Trump also wanted to introduce major restrictions on immigration, renegotiate major trade agreements and to build 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.

The Trump administration has implemented major policy initiatives by issuing executive orders and thereby avoiding the process of legislative change. At the end of the first year, only a few of Trump’s policies had been adopted by legislative – that is, lasting – means. There were no major legislative accomplishments during Trump’s second year – in fact, no major efforts – and there were three partial shutdowns of the federal government resulting from failure to agree on budget measures. Trump’s first two years were by far the least productive of any modern president, notwithstanding unified party control of the presidency and Congress.
3
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 corruption, 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.
While the president initially embarked on several major ambitious reform projects, all of these initiatives remain underfunded and most have stalled during the implementation phase. Confronted by the new government of the incoming President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and with historically low approval ratings, President Nieto has become a “lame duck.”
Citations:
USA Today (2018). Mexico’s unpopular president to leave behind troubled administration mired in scandal, controversy, Sep 12, 2018. https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/09/12/mexican-president-enrique-pena-nieto-defends-unpopular-administration/1265941002/
 
The government largely fails to implement its policy objectives.
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