Organizational Reform


To what extent does the government improve its strategic capacity by changing the institutional arrangements of governing?

The government improves its strategic capacity considerably by changing its institutional arrangements.
Lithuania’s government has in some cases improved its strategic capacity considerably by changing its institutional arrangements. The Skvernelis government developed a new concept paper on the institutional setup of public administration, which proposed reducing the number of institutions by 15%. The government is not on track to achieve this target; according to the Ministry of the Interior, the number of these institutions (at both the central and local level) fell by only 2.6% from 2016 to 2017. Although there was more rationalization activity at the central level in 2018, the process of optimization has been very sluggish at the local level.

At the end of 2018, the government approved a set of reform guidelines for ministerial and agency administrations, which led to organizational restructuring in 2019. Although these reorganizations may improve Lithuanian ministries’ policymaking focus, there is also a risk that another wave of administrative changes could add to institutional instability and staff turnover in the Lithuanian central government. Lithuanian authorities also decided to rename two government ministries: the Ministry of National Economy became the Ministry of Economy and Innovation after it took over responsibility for innovation (digital economy and IT infrastructure), while the Ministry of Education and Science added “Sport” to its name after gaining control over this policy field. President Nausėda has proposed reducing the overall number of Lithuanian ministries to 12, but this proposal is unlikely to be implemented before the 2020 parliamentary elections.
Vidaus reikalų ministerija, 2017 metų viešojo sektoriaus ataskaita. Vilnius, 2018
New Zealand
New Zealand’s strategic-planning capacity is already relatively high. There is thus little space for further improvement. Nevertheless, governments have shown commitment to coordinate and streamline the relations between different institutional actors at the core of government. In particular, the Cabinet Manual – the primary authority on regulating the conduct of ministers and their offices – has served as a framework through which to improve strategic capacity. For example, The Manual includes a “no surprises” convention, whereby departments are required to inform ministers promptly of matters of significance within their portfolio responsibilities, particularly where matters may be controversial or may become the subject of public debate. In November 2019, new public sector reform legislation was introduced into parliament. The proposed legislation will repeal the State Sector Act 1988 will be repealed and replace with the Public Service Act. The new act will give the public service more flexibility in its response to specific priorities or events, allow public servants to move between agencies more easily, and clearly establish the principles of an apolitical public service. Chief executive boards, or joint ventures, could also be set up to tackle very difficult issues; they would be accountable to one minister and receive a direct budget appropriation. Submissions on the bill closed in January 2020 and the bill is expected to pass mid-2020.
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Cabinet Manual (
While the structural design of the Swedish system looks almost identical to how it did a century ago, there have been substantive changes in the modus operandi of institutions at all levels of government, particularly concerning the relationship between institutions. Perhaps most importantly, coordination among government departments has increased. Furthermore, the agency system is continuously reviewed, and the structure of the system is reformed (e.g., through mergers of agencies). Finally, department steering of the agency has increased, formally and informally.

It is fair to say that the design and functionality of the system is continuously assessed. Over the past decade, issues related to steering and central control have dominated reform ambitions. Again, governments have not hesitated to alter the configuration of departments or agencies when deemed necessary to reflect the changing agenda of the government.
The government improves its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
The last major reforms within the public sector was the structural reform of 2007 and the 2012 Budget Law, which became effective in 2014. The key element for the government’s effort to make the public sector more efficient is the 2% across-the-board budget reduction (omprioriteringsbidrag), with the savings reallocated to new initiatives. A heated discussion followed about whether this will induce public institutions to increase efficiency and productivity.

While the structure and role of municipalities, and especially the regions, is continuously debated, there is no indication that major structural reforms will be undertaken in the near future. The new Social Democratic government is focused on improving performance within the existing structure, and has dropped the annual 2% across-the-board budget reduction target, and has increased funding for municipalities and regions.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has further created a new political secretariat in the PMO to strengthen the government’s strategic direction.
Ejersbo og Greve, Modernisering af den offentlige sektor, Børsens forlag, 2005.

The Danish Government, Denmark’s National Reform Programme, May 2011. (accessed 27 April 2013).

Lene Dalsgaard and Henning Jørgensen, Kvaliteten der blev væk: Kvalitetsreform og modernisering af den offentlige sektor. Copenhagen: Frydenlund, 2010.

Carsten Greve and Niels Ejersbo, Udviklingen i styringen af den offentlige sektor. Baggrundspapir til Produktivitetskommissionen. (Accessed 22 October 2014).

Statsministerens tale ved Folketingets åbning, 2. oktober 2018, (Accessed 7 October 2018).

Statsminister Mette Frederiksens tale ved Folketingets åbning 2019, (Accessed 18 October 2019).
While institutional arrangements have not changed much, the Sipilä government has continuously considered plans to promote and implement strategic aims within government and to reduce costs. These plans have included merging ministries and reallocating ministerial responsibilities, but the outcome of these efforts have been less than successful. Plans some years ago to merge the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry were heavily opposed and later developments largely justified the criticism. Among other reallocation efforts, a merger of the Ministries of Justice and Employment failed to the extent that it became necessary to cancel the merger. Several factors, including the fairly high degree of independence accorded to Finnish ministries and broad nature of recent cabinets, tend to undermine policy coordination across government bodies, highlighting the need for reforms that improve coordination. The Sipilä government’s strategic goals are discussed regularly in Iltakoulu (evening sessions), an informal meeting between ministry staffers and heads of the parliamentary groups. The sessions serve as a venue for in-depth consultation and consensus-building. The Rinne government introduced six strategic ministerial working groups, in which ministers from different departments guided and directed the implementation of government-program items within specific policy areas.
In general, institutional reforms intended to improve the government’s management capacities are extremely rare. As in other countries, strategic capacities and reform efforts are heavily influenced by constitutional and public-governance structures and traditions. The federal system assigns considerable independent authority to the states. In turn, the states have a crucial role in implementing federal legislation. This creates a complex environment with many institutional veto players across different levels. Institutional and organizational inertia spells for low levels of strategic capacity. German federalism reforms, which constitute some of the more far-reaching institutional changes of recent years, have started to have an impact on the adaptability of the federal politics. In July 2017 and March 2019, further far-reaching reforms relating to the financial relations between the federal level and the states were adopted.
Deutscher Bundestag (2018):
Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Änderung des Grundgesetzes (Artikel 104c, 104d, 125c, 143e); BT.-Drs. 19/3440.
Iceland’s recent governments have sought to improve the central government’s strategic capacity by reviewing ministerial structures. The 2007 – 2009 cabinet of Haarde initiated this process, while the 2009 – 2013 cabinet of Sigurðardóttir continued this process by reducing the number of ministries from 12 to eight and reshuffling ministerial responsibilities. Some of the ministries were administratively weak because of their small size. The capacity of these small ministries to cope with complex policy issues, such as international negotiations, was inefficient and ineffective. Further, the informality of small ministries was a disadvantage. The three cabinets since 2013, however, have more or less reversed these reforms by again increasing the number of ministers by three.
The regular review of decision-making procedures results in frequent reforms aimed at improving the system. Changes in institutional arrangements, such as the establishment of the PKC in 2010, have significantly improved the government’s strategic capacity and ability to undertake long-term strategic planning.
Institutional reform is an ongoing process, with frequent reorganizations aimed at improving strategic capacity taking place. This includes changes in ministerial responsibilities and portfolios.
As mentioned above, the organizational flexibility of both the core executive and the distribution of tasks to specific ministries is a core characteristic of the UK system of government. Cabinet reorganizations and new institutional arrangements have often been the prime minister’s weapon of choice to improve government performance. However, such reorganization can also be motivated by intra-party politics or public pressure, and it is difficult to evaluate the success of specific measures in enhancing the strategic capacity of the government. Recent civil service reforms have also served to enhance strategic capacity, while various open data initiatives have increased government transparency. More generally, the government is exploiting digital technology opportunities right across the functions of government.

Very substantial changes in governance do occur. Recent examples include the restoration of the Bank of England’s lead role in financial supervision and an alteration to the basis of financial regulation. Both of these examples followed evidence of the ineffectiveness of the preceding model, and shifts in the balance between state, market and external agencies in the delivery of public goods.

Changes in institutional arrangements, such as ministries or the focus of cabinet committees, were among the approaches taken to try to resolve the many difficulties in implementing Brexit. Despite the capacity to adapt in this way, the strategic changes could not overcome political blockages.
Australia largely accepts and implements recommendations from formal government reviews. Past investigations have covered all aspects of government including finance, taxation, social welfare, defense, security and the environment. There have been frequent structural changes to the main federal government departments, sometimes in response to changing demands and responsibilities, but sometimes simply for political reasons that serve no strategic purpose and may indeed be strategically detrimental. For example, the main department that is responsible for healthcare has changed its name at least five times in the past two decades in response to changes in its responsibilities. Of course, the change of name alone is insufficient. For instance, there has also been a long debate on the need to improve the country’s infrastructure, but implementation in this area has been lackluster.
French governments are usually reactive to the need to adapt and adjust to new challenges and pressures. These adaptations are not always based on a thorough evaluation of the benefits and drawbacks of the foreseen changes, however. A case in point is the reluctance of most governments to take seriously into consideration the recommendations of international organizations, if they do not fit with the views and short-term interests of the governing coalition. Resistance from vested interests also limits the quality and depth of reforms. Too often the changes, even if initially ambitious, become merely cosmetic or messy adjustments (when not dropped altogether). This triggers hostility to change, while in fact very little has been done. The new Macron administration is reminiscent of the Gaullist period at the beginning of the Fifth Republic, with its strong commitment to radical reforms (“heroic” rather than “incremental” style). The initial months of the presidency have already attained considerable achievements, but one has to be aware of French society’s deep-rooted reluctance to change. For example, the violent Yellow Vest protest movement starting in November 2018 put a brake on this “bonapartist” storm. After two years of the current government, it is evident that the weak capacity of organized opposition to the Macron administration’s reforms (e.g., by the trade unions, social organizations and vested interests) has given rise to spontaneous and violent grass-roots protests. Protesters have criticized the president’s top-down methods and policies, and the popularity of the president and prime minister has declined. This situation has forced the government to adopt a more cautious approach. If improvements are not felt within the next 12 to 18 months, the effective capacity of the government to achieve real change could be called seriously into question. The planned constitutional reform is on hold for the time being, as the agreement of a reluctant Senate is required.
Radical change was called for in the wake of the dramatic policy and governance failures that contributed to the severity of the crisis. However, the specific reforms implemented have been relatively limited and some of the initial momentum has been lost as the government enters its final year and a general election looms. Nonetheless, improvements in strategic capacity introduced during the period of the Troika agreement have been retained.

Institutional arrangements for supervising and regulating the financial-services sector have been overhauled to address shortcomings that contributed to the crisis. The Department of Finance has been restructured and strengthened, a Fiscal Advisory Council established, and a parliamentary inquiry into the banking crisis completed its public hearings.

During this Dáil, members of the Dáil Éireann elected the Ceann Comhairle (Speaker of the House) directly by secret ballot for the first time. All parliamentary committees have been established and committee chairs appointed using the D’Hondt system. Under the new system, 13 of the 19 core committees are chaired by opposition members.
The failure of the reform initiatives led by the short-lived DPJ governments demonstrated the difficulties of transplanting elements from Westminster-style cabinet-centered policymaking into a political environment with a tradition of parallel party-centered policy deliberation. Reverting to the traditional system coupled with strong central leadership, the Abe-led government has been quite successful in getting at least parts of its policy agenda implemented. It is open to debate whether the centralization of power has accounted for this or whether the strong majority in both houses of parliament, paired with opposing political parties’ weakness, has been at least as important. The passage of the security laws in 2015 – a major success from the government’s perspective – may seem to provide evidence of more robust institutional arrangements than in earlier years. However, problems in moving the government’s economic-reform agenda decisively forward, particularly in fields such as labor-market reform, suggest that the Abe-led government too has struggled to overcome resistance to change in a number of policy areas. This also applies to the slow progress of plans to change the constitution.
The previous government’s 2009 program outlined a series of administrative reforms. One of the most ambitious, the general opening of the civil service to citizens of the European Union, with the exception of some positions relating to national sovereignty, came into effect on 1 January 2010. The change is expected to gradually improve the quality of government administration. Nevertheless, the number of EU citizens hired remains low at approximately 5%, especially in the higher ranks. This is due to a compulsory language test in the three national languages (Luxembourgish, French and German), which limits the number of applications from non-nationals who are not fluent in all of these languages. Other reforms have come in the area of e-government, such as the planned implementation of freedom of information legislation. Substantial e-government efforts have been made with, the online service portal for citizenship and business matters.
“Luxembourg: e-Government State of Play.” European Commission. Accessed 19 Oct. 2019.
There can be little doubt that the government’s determination to ensure that Malta retains a strong position within the EU structures has had an impact. The administrative service’s strategic capacity has improved greatly, and the continued focus on training and development in collaboration with tertiary institutions is paying dividends. This collaboration has helped place greater focus on what the service needs in terms of human resources and capacity-building. The PMO is currently overseeing an overhaul of procedures in a number of ministries and public organizations, following recommendations made by Moneyval, the Venice Commission and GRECO.
Malta Today 17/01/2020 Rule of Law and good governance are at the top of the country’s agenda, Malta PM tells ambassadors
There is little public evidence that changes in institutional arrangements have significantly improved the strategic-governance capacity of Canada’s federal government. For example, there has been no comprehensive evaluation of Service Canada, a delivery platform for government services established in the 2000s.

In certain cases, there may actually be too much organizational change given the cost and disruption entailed. For example, in 2004 Human Resources Development Canada was split into two departments. In 2008, the two departments were merged again. In 2013, Human Resources Development Canada again changed its name, this time to the Employment and Social Development Canada, with little if any rationale provided for this change. It is unclear what benefits, if any, arose from this departmental reshuffling.

The frequency of departmental reorganizations has diminished in recent years. However, in 2017, the Liberal government announced that Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada would be split into two departments, the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, and the Department of Indigenous Services. The two departments will respectively focus on renewing a nation-to-nation relationship and improving the quality of services available.
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Highlights from the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, posted at
In recent years, some improvements in strategic capacity have been made by modifying institutional arrangements. For example, in 2012 the erstwhile Planning Ministry (Ministerio de Planificación, MIDEPLAN) was transformed into the Ministry of Social Development (Ministerio de Desarrollo Social, MDS), with some minor institutional changes that increased its strategic capacity, and the Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation was created in 2018. Furthermore, the reorganization of complementary institutions such as environmental tribunals (Tribunales Ambientales) and the reconfiguration of supervisory boards (Superintendencias) over the past decade has improved capacity in these areas. However, in general terms, attempts to alter institutional arrangements tend to encounter substantial bureaucratic obstacles.
Under the second Babiš government, the institutional arrangements of governing have remained mostly unchanged. Prime Minister Babiš has cultivated his technocratic image by making several career civil servants ministers. He has sought to increase the strategic capacity of his government primarily by exploiting his strong position as ANO leader. In the period under review, however, the prime minister’s position weakened vis-à-vis President Zeman, who has involved himself to an unprecedented degree in many aspects of governing in which he has no more than questionable constitutional authority. This has included the choice of ministers and the negotiation of support for government policies aligned with his preferences in the Chamber of Deputies (reaching out in particular to the Communists). The prime minister has not entered into direct conflict with the president, who remains popular among ANO voters.
In the 2015 – 2019 period, the Syriza-ANEL coalition government sought to enhance its strategic capacity in several ways, although in practice all strategy decisions were taken by a small circle of confidants around the prime minister, who usually relied on three government ministers without portfolio to assist him in carrying out his tasks and reform plans. Meanwhile, the Council of Administrative Reform continued its operation to oversee reforms in various policy sectors. The Hellenic Fiscal Council, an independent agency (as required under the Second Memorandum), continued its operations in the period under review, monitoring state finances. Similarly, the Office of the State Budget, a unit of parliament, also continued its task of monitoring the state’s finances and suggesting changes to economic policy.

However, improving the government’s strategic capacity became a lesser priority for the coalition government during its last year in power, as the elections of 2019 were approaching. Short-term electoral calculations rather than long-term reform strategies became the government’s top priority. One example was the government’s November 2018 proposal to reform the constitution to reflect the governing coalition’s preferences rather than well-thought-out principles on efficient political reform.

After the elections of July 2019, the new government devised plans to reform central-government institutions in a variety of policy sectors. In autumn 2019, it established a new National Security Council and a new National Authority on Transparency. Emphasizing the need to improve the long-term planning, programming and monitoring of public policies, the new government passed and implemented legislation that reorganized the Prime Minister’s Office (the PMO). The new PMO was renamed as the Presidency of the Government, and procedures designed to strengthen the state’s strategic capacity were quickly rolled out in different policy sectors. This included, for example, a long-term strategy for the digitalization of public services traditionally provided in person and on-site. The government also developed a long-term strategy designed to manage migration inflows and to facilitate the transfer of migrants from overcrowded islands in the Aegean Sea to the Greek mainland. Overall, strategic capacity that draws on scientific knowledge and long-term planning has improved.
In 2017, the State Comptroller published his first report about the operation (the second was published in March, 2018), in which he detailed several deficiencies, including that the cabinet’s authorities and jurisdictions were not specified in any piece of law. Thus, it was unclear whether or not the cabinet was a consultative or an executive body, in addition to a lack of any normative obligation of proper information transfer to this body. The State Comptroller found serious deficiencies regarding the extent and the quality of information being transferred, and even found instances when strategically important information was not transferred.

Furthermore, it is very much apparent from the report that there are serious concerns regarding the decision-making authority of the cabinet, namely whether it has the authority or not, even as a military operation was concurrent. In 2018, the Basic Law: the Government and the Government Act of 2001 were only slightly amended to formulate and delineate the cabinet’s authorities, as they expressly mention that, in the very least and under certain conditions, the cabinet is authorized to declare war. And yet, at the time of writing, it is unclear if the lack of an obligation to transfer information to the cabinet, any other deficiencies related to this and other questions of decision-making authority had been resolved.
Arlozerov, Merav, “Israeli government; The reform that will end the Treasury’s single rule; Will lose a major part of its authorities,” TheMarker 13.2.2013 (Hebrew)

Azulai, Moran. “The Ministerial Committee for Legislation to Vote on the Cabinet Act.” In Ynet. June 10th, 2017. (Hebrew).,7340,L-4973923,00.html.

Base Law: The Government (Hebrew) (Full text:

Chaimowitz, Mordecai. “The Prime Minister of a State that Woke Up from a Dream to the Worst Nightmare in Its History.” In Nrg website. September 13th, 2013. (Hebrew).

Dahan, Momi, “Why do local authorities hold back pay?,” IDI website 15.11.2009 (Hebrew)

“Employing and management in the public service,” Conference in the name of Eli Horovitz 2013: (Hebrew)

Israel. The State Comptroller. “Operation ‘Protective Edge’: The Decision Making Processes in the Cabinet Regardign Gaza Strip Before and After Operation ‘Protective Edge;’ The Management [lit. Coping] with the Tunnels’ Threat,” Special audit Report, 2017. (Hebrew). (Also available here:

Milman, Omri, “Mayors to Kahlon: ‘If you would promote the differential allocation we won’t build in our territory’“, Calcalist 2.9.2015

Nuri, Dalya Gabrieli. “The Kitchen that Changed the Middle East.” In Ha’aretz website. October 22nd, 2012. (Hebrew).

“The CEO of the social-economic cabinet approved the establishment of an authority for technological innovation,” Minister of the Economy website 15.9.2014: novation.aspx (Hebrew)

The Government Act, 2001 (Hebrew) (Full text:
Vigoda, Eran and Penny, Yuval, “Public sector performance in Israel” (October 2001), (Hebrew)

OECD, “Multi level Governance Reforms. Overview of OECD country experiences,” 2017,
South Korea
The Moon administration is expected to carry out some institutional reforms during his term. Most importantly, the new president has pledged to decentralize the political system by transferring previously centralized powers to national ministries and agencies as well as to regional and local governments. Moon also proposed transforming the current five-year, single-term presidency into a four-year, double-term (contingent upon reelection) system, and has envisioned reforming national institutions including the National Intelligence Service (NIS), the judiciary and various public agencies. He has said he would request the support of the National Assembly in developing the reforms. In 2019, proposed reforms of the public prosecutor’s office triggered a major political struggle. As of the end of the review period, however, most far-reaching institutional reforms had stalled due to the president’s lack of a parliamentary majority. More importantly, the prosecutorial reform will require the president and his allies to show more determined leadership and strategic capacity.
Korea Herald. What Moon Jae-in pledged to do as president. May 10, 2017.
Yonhap News. Moon reaffirms commitment to military reform, reinforcement. August 20, 2017.
Martial law probe falters as suspect can’t be found, Joong Ang Daily, Nov 8, 2018
In 2018, several important changes were introduced with regard to policy portfolios and the associated ministries. This included the creation of several new departments (including the Ministry for Territorial Policy and Civil Service), and changes in the names and responsibilities of others. At the time of writing, two-thirds of cabinet members in Spain’s caretaker government are women – the highest such proportion in the country’s history. Moreover, in line with government priorities in foreign policy and poverty reduction, the Prime Minister’s Office was reinforced in 2018 with several new policy units (the High Commissioner for Combating Child Poverty and the High Commissioner for the Agenda 2030).

However, the internal central-government structure and the procedures of governing have remained almost unchanged for many years. A more substantial and comprehensive improvement could have been achieved through the interministerial administrative-reform process that took place from 2012 to 2015, but the scope of this process was somewhat limited. Despite being praised by the OECD, it paid limited attention to the government’s strategic capacity to make and implement political decisions. In 2019, according to the 1997 Government Act, the PSOE caretaker government was limited in its duties to the ordinary office of public affairs, which do not include institutional reforms.
June 2018, BBC, Spain’s king swears in Sanchez cabinet with majority of women
No major changes have taken place in strategic arrangements or capacities beyond what has already been mentioned regarding externally driven policy coordination in fiscal and economic matters. Generally, strategic capacity is rather weak, though there are signs that government officials and politicians are actively considering and in some cases have even adopted proposals for strategic change. However, due to the long period of austerity, which came to an end only in 2019, strategic capacities have not been strengthened. Experiments in participatory budgeting and local democracy may somewhat harness citizen knowledge and expertise to local government. A policy mood, which is only slowly adapting to European developments, may also result in some institutional reform over the mid-term.
The government does not improve its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
The government usually promises more innovation at the beginning of a legislative period than it can deliver in fact. Desired improvements are often prevented by constitutional limitations (such as the collective character of the Austrian cabinet) and by internal rivalries within the coalition governments. The government’s overall strategic capacity is for this reason suboptimal.

A very good example can be seen in the field of education, where no headway has been made in two key areas: dismantling the socially exclusive effects of the school system and improving Austrian universities’ international standards. The parties may agree in principle on what needs to be done, but veto powers are able to block meaningful reforms during the legislative period.

The ÖVP-FPÖ coalition has renamed the Ministry of Justice the Ministry of Justice and Reforms. This indicates that institutional innovation was high on the government’s agenda. However, 2017 – 2019 government’s attempt to implement significant innovations within its institutional framework did not lead anywhere – possibly due to the sudden collapse of the coalition after less than 18 months. In addition, as most significant reforms must be passed by parliament with a two-thirds majority, any government depends on the cooperation of at least one opposition party. This reduces any government’s ability to implement its reform agenda, for example, regarding a new definition of power sharing between the federal and the state level. Thus, it seems that the government sometimes tries to improve its strategic capacity without reforming the institutional arrangements, since the reforms lack the necessary two-thirds majority. In the medium run, this may and will lead to more acts and laws suspended by the Austrian Constitutional Court for their alleged unconstitutionality.
Bulgarian government bodies do have the capacity to reform, both in the case of reforms initiated from within and reforms originating externally. It is becoming customary for ministries to publish their medium-term plans as a part of the annual budget procedure. However, even when reforms in different spheres are seriously contemplated, reform proposals are almost never connected with strategic thinking about changes in the institutional arrangements of governance.
Upon taking office, the first Plenković government slightly changed the cabinet structure. In April 2017, it created a new expert council, the Council for Demographic Revival. The change in the governing coalition in mid-2017 has led to changes in ministers but has left the cabinet structure untouched. In the period under review, little progress was made in reforming public administration.
Koprić, I. (2018): Croatia, in: N. Thijs, G. Hammerschmid (eds.), Public Administration Characteristics and Performance in EU28. Luxemburg: European Union, 100-140 (
Efforts to improve the efficiency of the administration have been stalled for years. However, in fall 2019 the government expressed its will to proceed with reform plans. The main goals are to improve the selection and promotion of personnel, speed up procedures, create control mechanisms, and clear confusion on roles and competences.

A major challenge is expanding strategic-planning capacities, which is currently performed without any central monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. The required professional training of personnel is advancing, albeit slowly and without publicly available reporting.
Top politicians and executive officials widely understand the problem of fragmented policymaking as it was highlighted in the OECD Governance Report. Yet, the government’s response to the OECD’s call to move “toward a single government approach” has been mostly rhetorical until recently. The current government, which has been in office since April 2019, has prioritized a large-scale government reform (riigireform). The consolidation of executive offices and government bureaucracy, and increased use of e-government tools are key aims for this ambitious reform. Yet, at the time of writing this report, several deadlines proposed in the Government Action Plan 2019 – 2023 have already been postponed.
Despite several years of public debate, successive governments have been unable to significantly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of central government. The attempt of the Renzi government to introduce a broad constitutional reform was strongly rejected in the referendum held in December 2016. The reform had aimed to reduce the delays caused by and veto powers originating from the perfect bicameralism, and redistribute powers between regional and central governments to make the responsibilities of each level clearer. The rejection of the reform demonstrated the difficulties of introducing broad reforms.

Under the first Conte government, the Five Stars Movement strongly pushed for a reduction of the number of deputies and senators. This reform, promoted essentially for symbolic reasons (i.e., reducing the costs of politics), was approved under the second Conte government. By contrast, the Conte governments have been unable to find a solution for the request by some regions for greater autonomy.
While Mexican policy elites are often receptive to new ideas and open to administrative reform, many of these reforms remain unimplemented and are abandoned before they can take root. This is especially true with regard to domestic security and law enforcement. Too often, the re-drawing of organizational diagrams has taken precedence over the implementation of desperately needed, but difficult structural reforms to strengthen the rule of law. Moreover, the most important challenge currently consists of improving the effectiveness of existing institutions.

The current Mexican president has an extraordinarily high level of legitimacy. Elected by more than 53% of Mexicans, with a majority in Congress and a high approval rating (67% in November 2019), he has initiated a transformation of Mexico. However, AMLO’s first year in office has not been characterized by sustainable institutionalization, but rather by populist, anti-institutionalist approaches, with the judiciary under particular pressure.
There is no evidence that the Costa government significantly changed institutional arrangements in such a way as to improve strategic capacity during the period under review.

The promise of state reform appears to be a constant theme for all recent governments in Portugal.
Since the parliamentary elections in June 2016, the institutional arrangements of governing have remained largely unchanged. The new Pellegrini government has not initiated any major institutional reforms so far. However, some progress has been made in the implementation of earlier reforms. For example, the Office for the Protection of Whistleblowers was launched in March 2019. This agency is an independent, national institution, which is mandated to protect whistleblowers by monitoring compliance with the law, providing expert opinions and advice on the application of the law, and offering rewards to those who report unlawful activities. It is not yet clear how the office can contribute to the protection of whistleblowers in a country that lacks a culture of respect for whistleblowers.
At the beginning of its term, the Cerar government increased the number of ministries from 13 to 16 and changed ministerial portfolios. By establishing separate ministries for public administration, infrastructure and environment/spatial planning, as well as by creating a ministry without a portfolio responsible for development, strategic projects and cohesion, the Cerar government improved its strategic capacity. The strengthening of the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy and the changing procedures associated with the creation of a new ministry for development, strategic projects and cohesion have helped to substantially increase the absorption rate. The government’s Public Administration Development Strategy 2015-2020 adopted in April 2015 was relatively brief on institutional reform. Same goes for the Strategy for the Development of Local Self-Government until 2020, adopted in October 2016. The main goal of the strategy is to strengthen local self-government and improve the quality of life at the local level. It focuses on strengthening citizen’s influence and their participation in decision-making by local self-government bodies in order to ensure the efficient use of public resources and the provision of efficient local services. However, the strategy is very vague and was not positively accepted by all three associations of municipalities. The Šarec government has kept the structure of ministries intact and has yet to pay any attention to institutional reform. The only significant development in 2019 was the preparation of the legislative package for the regionalization of Slovenia, which was prepared by large expert group on the initiative of National Council.
Government of the Republic of Slovenia (2015): Public Administration 2020: Public Administration Development Strategy 2015-2020. Ljubljana ( rategija_razvoja_JU_2015-2020/Strategija_razvoja_ANG_final_web.pdf).
Ministry for Public Administration (2016): Strategija razvoja lokalne samouprave do 2020 (Strategy of local government development until 2020). Ljubljana ( si/pageuploads/lok-sam-2015/aktualno-ls/strateg-ls/12_SRLS_16.9.2016.pdf).
The federal government has sought to improve its institutional arrangements through the adoption of new administrative techniques (specifically, new public management practices) and a number of other organizational changes. However, whenever the central government has sought to engage in substantial change through institutional reform (e.g., through reorganization of the Federal Council and the collegiate system), it has met with resistance on the part of the public and the cantons, which do not want more resources or powers to go to the federal level. This has limited the range of feasible institutional reforms.

While the basic structures of federalism and direct democracy are very robust, and direct democracy provides incentives for political parties to cooperate within the context of power-sharing structures, lower-level government structures are subject to constant change. Recent examples of such change have affected parliamentary practices, fiscal federalism and the judicial system, canton- and communal-level electoral systems, communal organization and public management. Nevertheless, one of the most important reforms, the reorganization of the Federal Council and its collegiate system, has failed despite several attempts. While the Federal Council is not prone to institutional reforms, the administrative body undertakes reforms quite frequently, not least as a substitute for a lack of government reforms.
The subnational units are more open to reform and display great variation in their administrative and institutional forms.
Ritz, M., Neumann, O. and Sager, F. (2019), Senkt New Public Management die Verwaltungsausgaben in den Schweizer Kantonen? Eine empirische Analyse über zwei Dekaden. Swiss Polit Sci Rev. 25(3): 226–252 doi:10.1111/spsr.12381
According to Law 5018 on Public Financial Management and Control, all public institutions, including municipalities and special provincial administrations, must prepare strategic plans. All public bodies have designated a separate department for developing strategy and coordination efforts; however, these departments are not yet completely functional. Maximizing strategic capacity requires resources, expert knowledge, an adequate budget and a participatory approach. The government lacks sufficient personnel to meet the requirements of strategic planning, performance-based programs and activity reports. In this respect, several training and internship programs have been established.

Turkey still lacks a strategic framework for public administration reform, including public financial management. There are various planning documents and sectoral policy documents on different aspects of public administration reform, but the lack of political support hinders comprehensive reform efforts. An administrative unit with a legal mandate to coordinate, design, implement and monitor public administration reform has not yet been established. Within the scope of IPA funds, Turkey attempts to ensure effective strategic planning and risk management at the program level.
European Commission, Turkey 2019 Report, Brussels, 29.5.2019, report.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

Cumhurbaşkanlığı Teşkilatı Hakkında Cumhurbaşkanlığı Kararnamesi 1, (accessed 1 November 2018)

Stratejik Yönetimde Kapasite Geliştirme Teknik Destek Projesi Revize Edilmiş Taslak Boşluk Değerlendirme Raporu,, (accessed 1 November 2018)

Y. Üstüner and N. Yavuz, ” Turkey’s Public Administration Today: An Overview and Appraisal,” International Journal of Public Administration, 2017.
Upon entering office, the PiS government has changed the institutional arrangements of governing. It has changed the portfolios of ministries several times, set up new cabinet committees, overhauled the Civil Service Act and strengthened the position of central government vis-à-vis subnational governments. However, the strategic capacity of the PiS government has primarily rested on its majority in parliament, the strong party discipline and the uncontested role of party leader Jarosław Kaczyński. No reforms have been introduced to improve strategic capacity through an open involvement of, for example, scientific expertise.
The U.S. government is exceptionally resistant to constructive institutional reform. There are several major sources of rigidity. First, the requirements for amending the constitution to change core institutions are virtually impossible to meet. Second, statutory institutional change requires agreement between the president, the Senate and the House, all of which may have conflicting interests on institutional matters. Third, the committee system in Congress gives members significant personal career stakes in the existing division of jurisdictions, a barrier to change not only in congressional committees themselves but in the organization of the executive-branch agencies that the committees oversee. Fourth, the Senate operates with a supermajority requirement (the requirement of 60 votes, a three-fifths majority, to invoke “cloture” and end a filibuster), and (except at the beginning of each Congress) changes in Senate procedures themselves are normally subject to the same procedures. Fifth, elected politicians, such as members of Congress, are rarely willing to alter the electoral arrangements and practices that enabled them to win office.
Most reforms are the consequence of bargaining between power levels, with successive political tensions between Flemish, Walloon, Brussels, and francophone interests. Eventually, protracted negotiations typically end up with some type of compromise that rarely improves overall efficiency. Each one of the six successive state reforms from 1970 to 2011 followed this logic.

The main bone of contention is the Brussels capital region (which is restricted to about one-fourth the actual Brussels agglomeration in terms of area, and one-half in terms of population). Its restricted boundaries result in numerous overlapping jurisdictions with Flanders and Wallonia. Moreover, within the Brussels region, competences are split between the 19 communes and the region. This creates another layer of overlaps and gridlocks, particularly with regard to city planning. The creation of a pedestrian zone in the city center, without sufficient coordination with the other communes or the region, created major traffic jams. Questions regarding the Brussels airport or the highway “ring” around Brussels are managed by Flanders. The building of a rapid train service to the south (to provide alternative transportation Walloon commuting to Brussels) requires close administrative follow-up from the Walloon region, which has priorities beyond reducing traffic in Brussels. The large forest in the south of Brussels spans across the Brussels, Flemish and Walloon regions, which makes its management quite cumbersome. As part of the 6th state reform, a bill passed in 2012 created the “Brussels metropolitan community” which in principle would cover the greater Brussels basin (>2 million inhabitants) and would facilitate policy coordination. Due to staunch resistance by some mayors in Flemish communes around Brussels and the reluctance of the N-VA (Flemish nationalists) to engage in such a logic, the legislation has yet to be implemented.

However, as the general process has trended toward decentralization, local efforts have had positive effects and can be seen as an improvement in strategic capacity.
Institutional reforms under the Tudose and Dăncilă governments were confined to changes in the portfolios of ministries. Most notably, the Dăncilă government split the Ministry for Regional Development, Public Administration and European Funds into two separate ministries and abolished the Ministry of Public Consultation and Social Dialogue. However, these changes have failed to improve the government’s strategic capacity. The absorption of EU funds has remained low, and public consultation has further lost importance. There have been no institutional reforms to address long-standing problems such as limited planning capacities or the low quality of RIA. The pledged reforms of subnational administration have not been adopted.

Orban cut the number of ministries from 27 to 18 by reducing the number of deputy prime ministers and merged some portfolios. It is still too early to determine whether Orban is doing better with regard to considering the externalities and interdependencies of policies, taking into account scientific knowledge and promoting common goods. As a minority government, the Orban government might face even more difficulty in improving strategic capacity.
The government loses strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
From time to time, Prime Minister Orbán has reorganized the workings of his government with an open effort to get rid of managing smaller issues and promoting rivalry in the top elite to weaken them, but without improving the strategic capacity of government. The institutional reforms introduced since the 2018 parliamentary elections have not been concerned with government effectiveness but with increasing its concentration of power and managing the fourth Orbán government’s new technocratic modernization project. The latter has a rather complicated functional and personal composition involving ten ministries and ministers (one of them, Mihály Varga, is also deputy prime minister), two ministers without portfolio and, in addition, one symbolic deputy prime minister (Semjén), not mentioning the large army of prime minister commissioners and ministerial commissioners. The structure of government has radically changed with new ministries and ministers and a new allocation of competencies. Only three ministries kept their previous function and minister: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Péter Szíjjártó), the Ministry of Interior (Sándor Pintér), and the Ministry of Justice (László Trócsányi). The Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Defense remained structurally unchanged, but new ministers (István Nagy and Tibor Benkő) have been appointed. The Ministry of Finance was (re-)established as a central unity combining two former Ministries under the leadership of Mihály Varga. The Ministry of Human Capacities (EMMI) has remained a superministry, both in terms of personal capacity and policy areas covered. It stretches over central policy fields, such as healthcare, education and culture, and a new minister was appointed (Miklós Kásler). In the meantime, however, the ministry has lost competencies to the new Ministry of Innovation and Technology (ITM) (László Palkovics). In the period under review, the cabinet has remained largely unchanged. In the fall of 2019, however, Judit Varga replaced László Trócsányi (who was nominated for the European Commission, but eventually rejected by the European Parliament) as minister of justice and the ministry gained responsibility for European affairs.
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