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

The government can largely implement its own policy objectives.
The current government agreed on its coalition contract on 7 February 2018. The coalition contract comprised 175 pages and touched upon nearly all possible policy topics.

The coalition contract notes that after two years, the government is to take stock and examine the progress made to that point. Thus, in November 2019, the government came up with a positive balance sheet. A month previously, government policies were validated by a study conducted by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) that also gave the government a positive assessment. The study stressed that the government had implemented or substantially initiated more than two-thirds of the promises laid down in its coalition contract. Both parties were able to translate slightly more than 50% of their electoral promises. However, opinion polls make clear that the public is not cognizant of this high implementation rate.
Bertelsmannstiftung (2019):
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 were 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 (including 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.
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 dialogue 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. Neither the current nor previous red-green coalition government has held a majority of seats in the parliament. As a consequence, policy proposals have had to be negotiated with opposition parties. If all opposition parties unite against the government, the government’s proposals will be defeated. The complexity of this parliamentary situation has significantly complicated the policy process, especially as the situation was further exacerbated by the inconclusive 2018 election results. After lengthy negotiations, the red-green government struck a deal with the Center Party and the Liberals in January 2019, the so-called January Accord. Under the deal, the government has agreed to implement several distinctly liberal or neoliberal reforms. Thus, while the capacity of the government to implement its policies remains strong, those policies now represent a rather broad spectrum of the party system.
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).
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.
Actual implementation then takes place at the cantonal level. The cantons formulate and decide upon an implementation act for each federal law, a process very similar to the EU transposition process and in which cantons enjoy large discretion. The actual policy delivery for almost all policies is in the hands of the cantons.
Sager, F., & Thomann, E. (2016). “A Multiple Streams Approach to Member State Implementation Research: Politics, Problem Construction and Policy Paths in Swiss Asylum Policy,” Journal of Public Policy, 37(3): 287-314. doi:
Sager, F., Ingold, K. & Balthasar, A. (2017). Policy-Analyse in der Schweiz. Besonderheiten, Theorien, Beispiele. Zürich: NZZ Verlag, Reihe „Politik und Gesellschaft in der Schweiz“.
The government is partly successful in implementing its policy objectives or can implement some of its policy objectives.
In May 2019, the Liberal-National Party coalition government was reelected, despite pre-election opinion polls predicting a win for the opposition Labor Party. The victory was such a surprise to the coalition that it had a very limited policy agenda prepared, essentially consisting of income-tax cuts that for the most part will not arrive until after the next election. Notwithstanding the absence of a substantial policy agenda, the government has largely been able to achieve its (limited) policy objectives since the May 2019 election. While there is no doubt that the government’s lack of a majority in the Senate is a real constraint, the government did succeed in passing the tax cuts, and has also been able to negotiate successfully with minor parties in the Senate to pass other (relatively minor) legislation.
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.

At the end of its final term in 2019, the Liberal majority government had 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, a progressive tax reform, a pension-system reform, the approval of major infrastructure projects and an increase in the independence of Statistics Canada). Most recently, the government has legalized cannabis consumption, made further changes to the tax code, and implemented a carbon tax in provinces that lacked an equivalent program.

Nevertheless, many social problems targeted by public policy (e.g., persistent education and healthcare 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 healthcare, 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. In its most recent set of reports (spring 2019), the Auditor General pointed at the government’s failure to process asylum claims in the two-month period to which it had committed, with waits in fact being closer to five years.
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
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.

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. With the tighter budget law, including possible sanctions toward municipalities, financial control has increased.

The regions, which are mainly responsible for healthcare, are contested, and proposals have been made to abolish them and transfer their responsibilities to the state. However, the new government does not support such a change and has emphasized the need for further decentralization. Having reached an agreement with the municipalities and regions in September 2019, the new government has increased the likelihood that its policies will be implemented locally, especially welfare and healthcare policies, and policies focused on children and the elderly.
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.

Finansministeriet, Velfærd først – tryghed, tillid og en grøn fremtid. Finanslovforslaget 2020, Oktober 2019. (Accessed 17 October 2019).
The Basic Principles of the Government Coalition for the period 2019 – 2023 are stipulated in the coalition agreement and the Government Action Plan. Additionally, a 100-day program for the first government period (May – August 2019) is publicly available on the government’s website. In its first 100 days, the current government completed 72% of 58 tasks stated in the plan.
New Zealand
Labour came to power in 2017 – albeit needing the support of two minor parties, NZ First and the Green Party – on the back of pledges to “a fairer country for all New Zealanders” and the popularity of its leading candidate, Jacinda Ardern – the youngest prime minister in over 150 years. The Labour-led government has certainly delivered on a number of its campaign promises, which include raising the legal minimum wage, allocating more money to public health, and passing measures designed to tackle child poverty and domestic violence. Jacinda Ardern was also widely praised for her response to the Christchurch mosque shooting in March 2019. However, in the second half of 2019, Labour’s support in opinion polls was still behind the major opposition party, and Ardern’s personal rating had dropped to 41% favorability (down from 50%). The government’s falling approval ratings are due in part to policy objectives not being met. In particular, the government vowed to cool down New Zealand’s overheated property market, which ranks among the most “unaffordable” in terms of income-to-housing-costs ratios. However, KiwiBuild – the government’s scheme to build 100,000 affordable homes between 2017 and 2027 – was axed after only eighteen months and a ban on foreign home buyers (implemented in October 2018) does not seem to have had a significant effect on property prices. In addition, Labour had promised fee-free tertiary education for first-year students, with plans for the policy to be extended to three years’ free fees. However, the government saw itself forced to limit the expansion program in 2019 after it was found that overall enrollment figures had actually dropped. However, a first-year “fees free” for all higher education students remains in place.
Church, Has the buyer ban worked?, New Zealand Herald (
Rutherford, Low enrolments sees $200m clawed back from fees-free scheme, Stuff ( -from-fees-free-scheme)
Walls, KiwiBuild reset: Government axes its 100,000 homes over 10 years target, New Zealand Herald (
Norwegian governments are often faced with having to choose between forming a heterogeneous majority government or a homogeneous minority government. The current government is a majority coalition government. A negotiated agreement among the coalition partners serves as a platform for a government, but this political agreement has no formal influence over budgetary policies.

In general, the government can rely on a large, well-trained and capable bureaucracy to implement its policies. However, major educational, healthcare 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. Despite facing considerable opposition in certain areas and in particular with regards to regional policy, the government implemented structural reforms affecting local governance, healthcare, the police, and the defense and military sector in the last decade.

There is evidence of problems with implementation in various policy areas, including social security management, regional policy, education policy and fish stock preservation. The decline in government effectiveness in several areas is taking place slowly over time.
The government that was in office for most of the period under review was the 21st constitutional government of António Costa, which held office until 25 October 2019. This government was guided by the government program, Programa do XXI Governo Constitucional 2015 – 2019. The government 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, were also developed. 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, José 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.

However, regarding the activities of the 21st constitutional government during the period under review, there seems to be a large degree of truth to the report appearing in the newspaper Publico which signaled clear improvements in investment, exportations and Portuguese industries.
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…/estado-nacao-governo-considera-ja-cumpriu-81-medi
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 changed to some degree under the 2017 – 2019 coalition government. The principle of “message control” implied that any government success should be defined as the success of the government as a whole – and not of any specific ministry or coalition partner. However, the structure of a two-party coalition remained the same as before. Each governing party tended to promote its role in government, at least informally, even if that meant distancing itself from its coalition partner.

During its first year, the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition rather successfully overcame the traditional pattern of “opposition within the coalition.” The strategic “message control” formula prevented internal coalition conflicts becoming public. For example, the Kurz/Strache government decided to treat (non-Austrian) EU citizens differently from Austrian citizens in matters of family subsidies, although this policy was criticized by the European Commission. A final decision by EU authorities is still to be expected.

The message control formula collapsed as a consequence of the “Ibiza scandal.” However, the chancellor had to distance himself and his party, the ÖVP, from the FPÖ. As such, ÖVP messages and FPÖ messages became increasingly contradictory. Even before the rather dramatic collapse of the coalition, some developments indicated that a perfect streamlining of government performance would not be possible. 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 raid directed against the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismusbekämpfung (BVT). This may indicate that perfect message control within a government consisting of highly autonomous members representing various parties is not possible, at least not in the long run.
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.

On the whole, the Sipilä government achieved many of its targets in the economic sphere, presiding over decreasing levels of unemployment and public debt. However, the Sipilä government did not succeed in implementing its ambitious social and healthcare reform. Ultimately, this failure caused the government to resign in March 2019. In addition, many of the government’s experiments in the social security sector were criticized for having been poorly designed.
Ville Pitkänen, “Kenen ääni kuuluu hallitusohjelmassa?,” Kanava, 2015, Nr 6, pp. 40-42;; toteutus/karkihankkeiden-toimintasuunnitelma.;
“Finland, a land of solutions: Government action plan 2018-2019.,”
“Economic Policy County Report 2018,”
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 of 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 overoptimistic data or forecasts. The election of President Macron represented a radical change at the top. The main improvement has come with the Macron government’s ability to combine its policy commitments with intense stakeholder concertation before finalizing legislative proposals. During the first 18 months of his term, this method of policymaking was quite successful. The new administration was very active in adopting and implementing its ambitious and encompassing policy reform agenda. The first positive results in terms of economic policy, growth and unemployment are already being felt. In spite of the Yellow Vest uprising, which forced the government to slow its forward charge somewhat, Macron has continued to pursue his reform agenda, even on very sensitive issues such as reform of the pension system.
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 healthcare 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 the structural reform of higher education and training, healthcare, 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. It was able to achieve this progress despite its diminished parliamentary majority following a split within the Social Democratic party’s parliamentary group, but its effectiveness has declined toward the end of its political term. 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, with a number of amendments made both during parliamentary deliberations and during actual implementation shifting the character of the reform. In addition, the Skvernelis government’s promising proclamations of healthcare reform have not been followed by the announcement of decisive blueprints for implementation. In the fall of 2019, the newly appointed minister of transport and communications dismissed the members of the board of the state-owned Lithuanian Post, and started inquiries into the activities of other state-owned companies; this risked a reversal of the efforts to depoliticize the management of state-owned companies during the country’s accession into the OECD.

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. In its 2019 report, the European Commission recommended improving the efficiency of public investment as a means of stimulating overall productivity growth in the country.
The Worldwide Governance Indicators of World Bank are available at
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 2019:
In general, the government is able to implement its policy objectives, which are 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.

In 2019, it was announced that the sectoral guidelines dealing with spatial planning would be adjusted. The various sectoral guidelines have been under discussion for decades. These are state plans for commercial areas, green spaces, mobility and housing. In 2019, the population was surveyed on these issues. In total, 300 responses were received by the relevant ministry, along with 101 opinions provided by municipalities.

One of the aims of the guidelines is to help to increase population growth in urban areas (Luxembourg, Esch, Diekirch / Ettelbrück) rather than in the countryside.

The Housing Plan identifies 510 hectares for housing construction. The Zones Prioritaires d’habitation (ZPH) takes up an important role. In these areas, at least 30% of gross acreage is to be reserved for affordable housing. This decision has been criticized by many property owners.
Sektorielle Leitpläne, Wenn Wachstum mit Nachhaltigkeit einhergeht - Hier eine kurze Einführung in die sektoriellen Leitpläne,
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 increases 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. In general, the government has only been successful when reforms meant more money for certain social groups. In contrast, more complex pieces of legislation, which have involved multiple political or other actors (e.g., school or housing reforms), have been difficult or poorly implemented.
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 EU’s macroeconomic imbalances procedure, since these are no longer regarded as being excessive. Another important policy objective – integration into the euro area and the European banking union – has been furthered somewhat, with the government’s negotiations with its EU partners successfully producing a clear roadmap outlining key measures to be introduced. The deadline for completing the measures passed in July 2019, with the government reporting that all necessary measures had been completed. However, as of the end of the review period, the EU partners had not yet rendered a positive assessment, and Bulgaria remained outside the banking union and the Exchange Rate Mechanism II.

Government-body budgeting in Bulgaria remains primarily based on historical expenditures, and does not involve programmatic elements, which would necessitate benchmarking and measurement.
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, exercising his constitutional right of veto, the president refused to sign into effect the government’s legislative proposal, 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 two cabinets between 2013 and 2016, which both commanded a parliamentary majority of 38 to 25, had no problems in implementing their policy proposals, even though some ministerial initiatives were thwarted. The three-party coalition cabinet (January – September 2017) had a much smaller majority of 32 to 31. However, this small margin never led to any government bills being overturned during the coalition’s brief tenure. The current coalition cabinet, which has held office since 2017, holds a majority of 35 to 28 and has so far not had any problems of this kind – even though two Left-Green Movement members of parliament declared during the cabinet formation negotiations that they would not support the coalition.
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.
The 2015 Review of the Programme for Government is available here:

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.
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 Prime Minister’s Office director general created a mechanism for monitoring the implementation of approved law proposals and government decisions. 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 with 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 and another for 2018. The reports include all the decisions made by the 34th government, their themes and statuses. According to the 2019 report, there was a steady increase in the number of government objectives achieved in 2018, with 79% of all objectives achieved. However, according to critics, this was due to changes to the methodology for measuring the governments’ objectives and specifically by lowering the standards of achievement. Second, the government uses reports made by NGOs, but these are often unsystematic and cover specific issues rather than provide a broad examination of policy implementation as a whole. Third, the establishment of KATEF (see section 2.6) represents another important step in improving policy implementation.
Arlozrov, Merav. ‘Netanyahu’s Government: The Tale – And The Surprising Numbers’ – The Marker, 9.6.16 (Hebrew):

“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):

Calcalist, “Government Performance Report: What is the worthy of goals if we have to meet them?,” 20.5.2019: (Hebrew):,7340,L-3762440,00.html

“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):

Execution Report of Governmental Decisions – Final Report of 2017, PMO Website, 2018, (Hebrew):

“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)

Kashti, Or, “The government made decisions, but no one monitors its compliance,” Haaretz 6.2.2015 (Hebrew):

“Meeting the Goals: These are the worst ministries in the government,” The Marker, 2018,

“Monitory policy report 2014 – first half,” Bank of Israel website 4.8.2014: (Hebrew)

‘New Application Will Allow The Public to Follow the Pace of Laws and Government Decision’s Implementations’ – The Marker, 15.7.15 (Hebrew):

“Report: Government performance has improved – but National Insurance is still in danger,” Walla News, 2018

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)

The Marker, “the government’s rating for itself – barely enough: the firm that ignored the targets, and the one that promised a revolution – and doesn’t exist, 20.5.2019” (Hebrew)

“What Can the Government Learn From the Air Force,” The Marker, 2018

Working Plan Book 2018-2019, PMO Office, February 2018 (Hebrew),

“Yearly report 64a,” State Comptroller official publication 15.10.2013: (Hebrew)Zachria, Zvi.
While the economy has improved since Abe became prime minister in 2012, major aspects of the government’s economic-policy program remain unrealized. Most critically, structural reforms have not been carried out as promised. Reforms implemented to date have been too indecisive with regard to the labor market and other issues. As a consequence, economic growth remains weak, and the 2% inflation goal remains unrealized. The consumption-tax hike of October 2019 is too small to achieve fiscal consolidation any time soon.

Many longer-term issues continue to linger in the area of social policy. This is particularly true with regard to the much-needed reform of the social security system. While a new government panel was created in late 2019 to discuss sweeping measures in this area, the future course is still unclear and contested.

Seven years into Abe’s premiership, he has still failed to achieve his primary goal of constitutional revision. In the upper house election of 2019, Abe’s pro-amendment camp lost its two-thirds-majority in that chamber. Concrete measures such as an amendment to the Referendum Law made little progress in 2019. The population remains very divided on the issue, and the LDP’s coalition partner, Komeito, is not in full agreement on the issue.

In terms of international relations, tensions with China have relaxed somewhat in recent years. Relations with neighboring South Korea are at their lowest point in many years, if not decades. A trade pact was successfully concluded in late 2019 with Japan’s core ally, the United States, although at the price of major concessions.
Kaori Kaneko, Japan’s Abe gets middling marks on his economic performance, Reuters, 12 September 2018,

Japan seen as unlikely to achieve fiscal consolidation target despite tax hike, The Japan Times, 1 October 2019,

Song Jung-a and Kana Inagaki, Why Japan-South Korea relations have soured, The Financial Times, 28 August 2019,

Abe wins upper house poll but suffers constitutional reform setback, Kyodo News, 22 July 2019,
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. In 2019, this was rated at 74%.
Although problems remain, such as insufficient oversight of service providers and a lack of controls related to personal emoluments, insufficient verification and enforcement procedures, missing documentation, deficiencies in stock management, and a lack of adherence to public-procurement regulations, some improvement has been evident in the quality of implemented projects, especially road works. However, there has also been criticism of the lack of impact assessment reports prior to certain roadwork projects. In 2018, purchases totaling approximately €86 million were made by direct order following approval from the Ministry for Finance. Furthermore, a new act aimed at reforming local councils’ performance has been introduced.
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
The following reports are obtained here
Performance Audit: An evaluation of the regulatory function of the Office of the Commissioner for Voluntary Organizations –
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
National Audit Office: Report of the Auditor General public accounts committee 2019
According to an optimistic estimate by a leading newspaper, the Rutte II government implemented 80% of its policy initiatives during its four-year term. Of the 271 initiatives, 158 were successful and 59 were (partial) failures. Consequently, the Rutte II government justifiably claimed credit for renewed economic growth, the restoration of budgetary equilibrium and the passage of 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 caps on healthcare costs). 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 second year, two of its big initiatives, a pension agreement and a climate agreement, were achieved. However, in its overall assessment of government performance in 2018 – 2019, the General Audit Chamber, in an especially pessimistic annual report, found most departmental reports inadequate owing to “bad memory” and inadequate records. For the first time, it also identified illegal expenditures.

Recent policy failures and implementation gaps can be found in virtually all policy areas and departments. This is no longer denied even in parliament. Such failures are generally considered to have resulted from the cuts imposed under the austerity policies of Rutte I and II. Inspectorates in the building, education and healthcare sectors are now considered weak. A similar situation is evident in the consumer and privacy protection field, especially with regard to the digitalization of citizen registrations and the accessibility of online-only government services. However, in the second half of 2019, the neoliberal austerity policy model was largely abandoned, and plans for new and additional public expenditures were announced.

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. The share of local governments’ payment obligations that could be fulfilled decreased from 42% in 2009 to 35% in 2017 and was expected to decrease more in 2018. 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.

The government frequently formulates policy goals that are more far-reaching than those pursued in practice. The shift from an austerity model to a more expansionary spending policy in September 2019 will make it harder to make realistic evaluations of policy-implementation effectiveness. 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 as the legitimation for policy change.
Financieel Dagblad, 26 February 2019. Gemeenten in zwaar weer door verplichte sociale uitgaven.

NRC – Handelsblad, De snijwonden van Rutte I en II.

M. Chavannes, 25 September 2019. Wij hebben een mooi klimaatakkoord. Wat niet betekent dat we het gaan uitvoeren. (decorrespondent, accessed 3 November 2019)

Algemene Rekenkamer, Verantwoordingsdag. Toespraak President van de Algemene Rekenkamer, 15 May 2019 (Rijksoverheid, accessed 3 November 2019)

Rathenau Instituut, 23 October 2019. Hoe spelen evaluaties een rol in kennis voor beleid? (, accessed 3 November 2019)

De Correspondent, 26 October 2019. De CO-2 heffing die nooit werd geïnd.
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.

As of August 2019, public revenues had increased, but expenditures were increasing more rapidly. In addition, currency transfers expanded by 57.7% from the previous year, as did capital expenditures (82.4%) and capital transfers (286.3%). Equally surprising is the increase in purchase of goods and services (27.2%) that took place following the local elections.

Results were similarly mixed in other sectors. For instance, the Ministry of Education realized most of its 17 performance objectives, but failed to make progress in terms of improved equipment, the completion of projects, innovation and improved student and educator mobility. Whereas the Ministry of Health completed most of its 54 objectives/actions launched in 2018, it failed to increase equipment capacity and conduct assessment/ satisfaction analyses.

The government’s long-standing investment strategy, which is based on the build-operate-transfer model and includes urban hospitals, bridges, connecting highways and airports, effectively created a budgetary black hole as these project are assured guaranteed revenues by the treasury.
European Commission, Turkey 2019 Report, Brussels, 29.5.2019, report.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

World Justice Project, Rule of Law Index 2019, pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

Sağlık Bakanlığı 2018 Faaliyet Raporu, (accessed 1 November 2019)

Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı, 2018 Faaliyet Raporu, (accessed 1 November 2019)

G. Atabay, “Analiz: Ocak-Temmuz bütçesindeki korkunç performans ne anlatıyor?” 15 August 2019, (accessed 1 November 2019)

“Bütçe açığı belli oldu! İlk 10 ayda 100.7 milyar TL,” 15 November 2019, (accessed 15 November 2019)

“14 milyar liralık keyfi harcama kalemi,”22 October 2019, (accessed 1 November 2019)

“Yap-işlet-devret yatırım mı karadelik mi?” 13 April 2019, (accessed 1 November 2019)

“Sayıştay, son 17 yılda toplam 10 milyar kamu zararı tespit etti,” 19 April 2019,,812927 (accessed 1 November 2019)
The government partly fails to implement its objectives or fails to implement several policy objectives.
On 9 October 2014, the newly instituted Michel government published its government agreement, the document meant to guide its policy over the whole government term. The agreement’s primary objective was to increase the employment rate from 67.3% to more than 73.2%. By 2018, it had only reached 69.7% (Eurostat data), more than two points below the euro zone average. This limited progress was mainly due to economic growth across the European Union and less to the actual decisions of Belgium’s government, according to a study by Bodart, Dejemeppe and Fontenay (2019).

Another important target was a reduction in the structural public deficit. However, subsequent progress has again been more limited than hoped. In defense of the government though, the actual deficit shrank from 3.1% of GDP in 2014 to 0.7% in 2018. The issue lies more in the lack of structural adjustments, which is forecast to produce a return to higher deficits in the coming years, as identified by the Federal Planning Bureau.

The government strategy aimed to produce a significant “tax shift,” decreasing the burden of taxation on wages and shifting it toward other activities, including environmental taxes. The government achieved moderate success in that regard. Though, while some tax cuts took place immediately, the shift toward other sources was delayed. Still, taxes on fuel have increased and those on cars are scheduled to follow.

The picture is similar for social security with several reforms implemented, but the sustainability of the system not yet ensured. Meanwhile, the picture for energy policy, productivity improvements, skills adaptation and science policy is much less favorable. The ministers for these areas were comparatively weak within their respective parties and their achievements dismal, and several aspects required enhanced cooperation between the federal government and federate entities, which is notoriously difficult in Belgium.
Bodart, Dejemeppe, and Fontenay (2019) “Évolution de l’emploi en Belgique : tentons d’y voir plus clair,” Regards Economiques No 146.
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 Michelle Bachelet government 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 proved to be a practical obstacle in the achievement of governments’ core policy objectives.

Due to the mass protests and strikes of October 2019, it is likely that the current government under President Piñera will have to adjust its program and policy objectives significantly in order to restore social order and peace. By the end of the period under review, several reform proposals that did not form part of the administration’s original policy objectives had already been announced. The Intelligent Citizenship Foundation’s (Fundación Ciudadanía) website reviews the balance of compliance between the Piñera government’s second-year legislative promises and the announcements made during the social mobilizations in Chile. On average, the rate of compliance was between 35% and 50%.
Independent initiative to measure implementation of the government program:
The effectiveness of the (second) Babiš government has suffered from the lack of a parliamentary majority. Nevertheless, the government has been able to implement its program in cases involving policies (such as wage increases) not requiring broader consultation, and which were close to the aims of its Social Democrat coalition partners and refrained from major reforms. Similarly, the promise of cheap transport for young people and pensioners was implemented quickly. However, policy implementation has proved more challenging as the economy has slowed, as demonstrated by the reduction in the promised pay increase for teachers. The state budget for 2020, which included a deficit of CZK 40 billion (€1.56 billion), passed in October 2019 with the support of the Communist Party. In an unusual step, the president personally appeared in the parliament to press members to support the budget. The opposition criticized both the deficit and the lack of support for investment.
Significant structural reforms have been legislated by successive Greek governments over the last nine years, but their mix and implementation were and continue to be uneven. Greece has implemented important labor market reforms, but there has been less progress with regard to curtailing 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 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. After the July 2019 elections, several large-scale projects (the Eldorado Company mining project and the redevelopment of the former Hellenicon airport) gained speed, as the new government was keen to help foreign investors implement their investment plans.
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 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 administration units. In the period under review, the Orbán government succeeded in introducing new benefits for families. However, it has failed to expand childcare facilities and to tackle problems in the healthcare sector, one central promise of the 2018 election campaign.
The formation of the first Conte government, following the 2018 elections, proved rather difficult, and the policy differences between the two coalition parties made the swift implementation of their policy platforms problematic. Under this government, as demanded by the Northern League, policy implementation was most prompt with regard to blocking the influx of immigrants, even at the price of antagonizing Italy’s European partners. However, in other fields (e.g., pension reform and the new citizen’s income), preparatory work has proven more uncertain, and full implementation has been slow.

One key policy initiative of the first Conte government was the 2019 budget project, which triggered direct and substantial conflict with the European Union. The initial project had to be corrected repeatedly in order to avoid escalating the conflict with the EU.

Several important policies inserted in the government program were simple repetitions of electoral promises (formulated in order to capture votes, but without any specification of the details or costs involved). Extensive work was required to transform these into workable policies. Overall, the policy results of the first Conte government were meager. It remains to be seen whether the second Conte government will be more successful.
The Šarec government’s coalition agreement was relatively sparse in content and far less detailed than that of the previous government. More details could be found in the separate agreement between the five parties in government and their out-of-coalition partner Levica (The Left). The government was successful in reaching the announced agreement with the social partners on wage rises in the public sector and the abandonment of some austerity measures of the past. It also succeeded in privatizating the country’s largest and third-largest banks. However, other key goals in the coalition agreement and the agreement with Levica have not been met, as the government’s appetite for reform abated over the course of the first year. There has been little progress made with the two large-scale investment projects initiated by the previous government (i.e., the construction of the second railway track to the port of Koper and the second Karavanke highway tunnel to Austria), and the announced healthcare and tax reforms have yet to be presented to the public.
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 despite the strong personal mandate deriving from his decisive election victory and strong popularity, Moon’s Democratic Party lacked a majority in parliament through the end of the review period. 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 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, election reform and chaebol (business conglomerate) reform. Compared to his first year in office, President Moon’s reform drive has substantially slowed, and his administration has even backtracked on some of its already achieved goals. For example, amid criticism from the business sector, Moon has promised to reduce the pace of minimum-wage increases, and has promised more “flexibility” in reducing maximum allowed weekly work hours. As policy objectives are associated with individual politicians rather than deriving from comprehensive party programs, the controversy over and subsequent resignation of Justice Minister Cho Kuk in 2019 served as a distraction that slowed many of the reforms envisioned by President Moon.
“S. Korea ‘bureaucracy risk’ derails economic innovation,” Maeil Business Newspaper, March 26, 2014
Yonhap News. “S. Korea committed to pursuing goal of inclusive growth.” May 06, 2019
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: the weakness of the coordination mechanisms with the 17 autonomous communities that are responsible for most policy areas and 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 most of its strategic objectives, especially with regard to securing approval of the annual budget. According to the World Bank’s Government Effectiveness Indicator, which measures the quality of policy formulation and implementation, the credibility of the government’s commitment has declined since 2015.
Worldbank (2019), Worldbank Government Effectiveness Indicator,
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 or Constitutional Court, although the Supreme Court can challenge government decisions directly and effectively. 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 recent UK general elections.

Persistent problems in the National Health Service have had to be addressed by resort to emergency funding. Meanwhile, disputes over some issues – such as a third runway at Heathrow or the (slow) construction of HS2, a high-speed rail-link between London and northern England – have been affected by the impact that the issue would have on individual ministers’ parliamentary constituencies. The 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 for which delivery is “in doubt” or “unachievable” compared to five years earlier. IfG has found that, among other challenges, Brexit has distracted civil servants, undermining the effectiveness of civil service operations. The 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.

On the whole, UK governments are able to achieve what they set out to do, because the electoral system is geared to generating parliamentary majorities which facilitate implementation of objectives. Nevertheless, and especially when the government’s majority is small, difficulties can arise in achieving policy objectives because of intra-party factionalism and parliamentary party rebellions. Even under the exceptional coalition government between 2010 and 2015, Premier Minister David Cameron often had more trouble controlling his own party’s right-wing than dealing with the demands of the junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats. 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, challenges in implementation became only too evident – and even more so after she was replaced by Boris Johnson who eventually withdrew the whip from no fewer than 21 Conservative members of parliament. The UK government was without a majority in the House of Commons for weeks, which in this traditionally parliament-focused system meant a de facto standstill of almost all government action.

The conclusion to draw is that in the relatively rare circumstances of a hung parliament, the UK government will struggle to implement policies. In the exceptional circumstances of 2019, the difficulties were exacerbated, but are expected to be solved by a return to majority government.
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 healthcare, 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 2019 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 51% of all country-specific recommendations addressed to Croatia have recorded at least “some progress,” while the remaining 49% of recommendations have recorded “limited” or “no progress.” Reform activity in relation to key structural policy areas has stalled in recent years.

In 2018, Plenković’s government continued the legacy of previous governments of passing multiple laws according to the urgent procedure, albeit to a lesser extent than in previous years. In 2018, 48% of laws were passed within the urgent procedure that requires only one reading by the parliament. Unfortunately, the intense use of this procedure significantly downgrades the overall quality of laws passed. Hence, there is a wide range of laws that have been amended several times, such as the disputed Enforcement Act. All of this testifies to the low effectiveness and uncertainty present in a large array of government decisions.
European Commission (2018): Country report Croatia 2019 Including an In-Depth Review of the prevention and correction of macroeconomic imbalances. SWD(2019) 1010 final, Brussels (

Kotarski, Kristijan (2019)
The European Commission and the IMF praised the government in 2019 for sustained growth rates and tangible economic successes. General unemployment decreased from 8.2% in August 2018 to 6.8% in August 2019. However, youth unemployment remained high (16.6% in June 2019). The Commission also warned that the tourism and the construction sectors cannot be expected to guarantee long-term economic sustainability. While noting improvements in employment and the reduction of non-performing loans (NPLs), the Commission recommended major improvements to state employment services and called for efficiently addressing the NPLs problems. While Cyprus achieved a credit rating of BBB – credit rating agencies remain cautious in their assessment. The increase of public debt from the management of NPLs in 2018 has receded, with the debt falling below 100%. Despite good economy indicators, the EU and others warn that achieving sustainability will require the government to address critical issues, such as shifting economic activity to new sectors, accelerating structural and other reforms of the central and local governments, reforming the judicial system, and privatizing state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The funding of a fully implemented national health system and the eventual impact of court decisions on the salaries and benefits of public employees remain issues of serious concern.

Overall, while policies improved economic confidence, competitiveness has shown little progress. The government is still expected to meet major challenges.
1. EU Commission Country Specific Recommendations, Cyprus, June 2019,
2. Rating agencies cautious over Cyprus’ economy, In-Cyprus, 20 May 2019,
The new president, López Obrador, has announced a highly ambitious reform agenda, aimed at transforming Mexico socially, economically and politically. New social programs are being implemented and projects targeting the poor south have been announced, while infrastructure projects like the Mexico City Texcoco Airport have stalled. Tackling corruption and demilitarizing the war on drugs are key targets for the government. The government’s reform agenda is so ambitious that it will be very difficult to achieve.

Nevertheless, the government’s first social and anti-corruption policy steps seem promising. Though the aim of demilitarizing the war on drugs has so far failed.
The Dăncilă government has not been very effective, if one compares the list of promises included in its initial program with its accomplishments. At his investiture, Dăncilă announced plans to increase salaries, pensions and child allocations; reduce taxes; build nine new hospitals and modernize existing ones; build 2,500 nurseries, daycares and after-school programs; boost the international reputation of Romania’s education and research profile; invest in infrastructure projects and new plants; decentralize public administration; and reform the judiciary to “prevent abuse coming from it.” Aside from increasing some salaries and pensions, the government managed to fulfill none of its remaining objectives. Its justice reforms were partly blocked by the Constitutional Court, and were subject to vehement criticism by the opposition and international actors.
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 policy goals, but declared that his government would adhere to the existing manifesto. Implementation of the manifesto has been limited. Previously announced education and healthcare reforms have been delayed or tackled in an erratic manner. The much-awaited healthcare reform was eventually presented in September 2019, but then withdrawn as Smer-SD leader Robert Fico did not support the cabinet’s draft law. Regarding education, the government increased teacher salaries by 10% and updated its education strategy in 2019. However, the latter has suffered from a number of gaps. Little progress has been made with the promised improvements to public transport infrastructure.
In comparison to parliamentary systems that anticipate the near-automatic legislative approval of government bills, policy implementation in the United States’ 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. Even under the condition of unified government, the administration proved unable to pass any major legislation, with the exception of tax reform. The Trump administration has implemented major policy initiatives by issuing executive orders and thereby avoiding the process of legislative change. Preoccupied by the Mueller investigation and House hearings and with divided party control, Congress passed no major legislation in 2019. Trump’s first three years were by far the least productive of any modern president so far.
The government largely fails to implement its policy objectives.
Back to Top