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

The government can largely implement its own policy objectives.
The previous German government, a coalition government between the CDU/CSU and SPD, had a very good record in terms of implementing its policy agenda. A total of 73% of the 294 projects agreed upon in its 2018 coalition agreement were fully implemented and another 5% have been partially implemented. This high implementation rate, which includes several key goals like pension reform and a climate change bill, has been acknowledged by voters, as the share of respondents who regard coalition agreements as credible doubled within the two-year span of 2019 to 2021 (Vehrkamp and Matthieß 2021). Given the adverse circumstances brought on by the pandemic and the government’s absorption of much of the economic shock since 2020, this can be seen as indicative of excellent performance. In addition, many experts have deemed the government’s management of the coronavirus crisis to have been successful (see Rüb, Heinemann and Zohlnhöfer 2021).
Vehrkamp, Robert and Theres Matthieß (2021): Versprechen gehalten – Schlussbilanz zum
Koalitionsvertrag der GroKo 2018-21, Zukunft der Demokratie, 03.2021.
Rüb, Friedbert, Friedrich Heinemann, and Reimut Zohlnhöfer (2021): Germany Report - Sustainable Governance in the Context of the COVID-19 Crisis, available at
The government has a good track record in achieving its own policy objectives. In issue areas considered by the government as a high priority – examples include economic recovery, euro zone entry criteria, budget reform and fiscal discipline, OECD entry requirements, following MONEYVAL recommendations – 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.

The PKC monitors progress with respect to government-declaration goals on an annual basis, providing a report to the prime minister. The NAP 2020 mid-term evaluation noted that despite some successes in achieving a number of goals set out in the plan (e.g., ICT and e-governance), other goals have not been achieved and would not be achieved before the end of 2020.

Overall, the government’s declarations are mostly successfully fulfilled, but achieving the government’s long-term goals has been more problematic.
1. PKC (2017) How does Latvia achieve its development goals? Mid-term evaluation, Available (in Latvian) at:, Last accessed: 10.01.2022.
The Swedish government has a robust implementation capacity (Zahariadis et al, 2021). The roughly 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 (Jacobsson, Pierre, and Sundström, 2015).

The departments as a whole have about 5,000 staff members, including 4,400 civil servants and 200 elected officials (Regeringskansliet, 2021), whereas the number of staffers at the agency level is around 273,000 (OFR, 2021). To a large extent, and with considerable variation among policy sectors and even specific issues, agencies provide informal advice to the 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. Notably, the breakdown of the January Accord in 2021 resulted in a political crisis that included the first vote of no confidence against a prime minister in Sweden.
Jacobsson, Bengt, Jon Pierre and Göran Sundström. 2015. “Governing the Embedded State.” Oxford University Press.

OFR. (Offentliganställdas Förhandlingsråd [Public Employees’ Negotiation Council]). 2021. “Branschfakta – Statlig sektor.”

Regeringskansliet (Government Offices of Sweden). 2021. ”Regeringskansliets anställda.”

Zahariadis, Nikolaos, Evangelia Petridou, Theofanis Exadaktylos, and Jörgen Sparf. 2021. “Policy Styles and Political Trust in Europe’s National Responses to the Covid-19 Crisis.” Policy Studies: 1-22.
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, although the parliament tends to gain in strength, and thus intervene more and more in the parliamentary phase.
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.
It needs to be emphasized that the federal government in Switzerland does not correspond to the idea of government based on the logic of opposition and government, or on the notion that those political parties that obtain a majority of votes have a mandate to pursue their programs as a single party or minimal winning coalition. Rather, in Switzerland, federal government always means broad coalitions with the inclusion of almost all major political actors. Therefore, any governmental policy is a result of encompassing negotiations and compromises, which also address potential opposition to its implementation on the cantonal level. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that there is no such thing as a “government program” or a “coalition treaty” with clearly laid out policy objectives. But of course, as comparative analyses show, these limitations do not imply that such types of governments are less effective, at least over the medium to long run.
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“.
Sciarini, Pascal. 2014. „Eppure si muove: the changing nature of the Swiss consensus democracy.“ Journal of European Public Policy 21 (1): 116–32.
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. However, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic saw swift and major policy responses, both in terms of income supports and public health measures, all of which the government had no difficulty implementing.

That said, the government’s lack of a majority in the Senate is a real constraint, which has to date frustrated its attempts to implement industrial relations reforms and religious discrimination laws.
The current Liberal administration, elected as a minority government both in 2019 and again in 2021, has had to pivot quickly in response to the pandemic and the health crisis, business closures and unemployment which that brought. However, in quick succession in the spring of 2020, the government rolled out programs designed to support businesses, keep workers on the payroll and support those whose incomes had been impacted, primary among these being the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. The Office of the Auditor General has found that CERB and CEWS were designed extremely rapidly, considered a wide array of relevant parameters and modifications were undertaken as needed “in real time.” However, as the programming was premised on post-payment controls, substantive audits will need to be undertaken going forward.

With respect to election promises made by the current federal administration, the government has made progress on day care, mandated vaccinations for federally-regulated domains and invested CAD 4 billion in water infrastructure for Indigenous communities. However previous commitments on reduction of carbon emissions remain a challenge and, as the OECD has commented, Indigenous peoples remain “underprivileged” on key socioeconomic indicators such as income, employment, housing and health.

Many socioeconomic problems targeted by public policy are complex phenomena 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 require provincial cooperation to achieve federal policy objectives. However, in terms of responsiveness to the pandemic, the government reacted quickly to the crisis and indeed undertook historic measures in a very short time-frame.
Liberal Party of Canada, Forward. For Everyone. 2021,

OECD, Economic Surveys: Canada 2021, 2021, Paris: OECD Publishing.

Office of the Auditor General of Canada, COVID-19 Pandemic, Report 6, Canada Emergency Response Benefit,

Office of the Auditor General of Canada, COVID-19 Pandemic, Report 7, Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, 2021,

Wernick, Michael (2021) Governing in Canada: A Guide to the Tradecraft of Politics, On Point Press.
The Danish government administration has a reasonably good track record in terms of implementing its agenda. Budget arrangements – including the Budget Law – lay out a clear framework for how regions and municipalities operate in this regard.
As the public sector is relatively decentralized, local governments (i.e., regions and municipalities) are responsible in large part for implementing measures and services. While the decentralized nature of welfare services is designed to allow for differences across geographical regions, this is often contested by those citing the welfare state objective of ensuring equal treatment for all. Since regional and municipal governments interact more directly with citizens, they also must deal with the public’s expectations regarding the level and quality of such services, even though they often have little scope of action.
The degree of freedom afforded to municipalities has shifted back and forth over the years, and there have been some who have suggested that the regions, which are primarily responsible for healthcare services, should be done away with and their responsibilities taken over directly by the central government.
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 second Conte government, which assumed office in autumn 2019, defined a very broad set of policies in the fields of taxation, labor law, environmental protection, justice and infrastructure. The implementation of these goals, which proved extremely difficult because of internal disagreements among the coalition parties, was further hindered by the pandemic crisis. Meanwhile, the current Draghi government has defined a more parsimonious set of objectives (the implementation of a strong COVID-19 vaccination strategy and the achievement of the tasks mandated by the first year of the Recovery and Resilience Plan) and has largely succeeded in implementing them.
for the achievement of the PNRR tasks see: and (accessed 30 December 2021)
New Zealand
The policy implementation record of the Labour government is mixed. The Labour-NZ First coalition (2017-2020) delivered on a number of its campaign promises such as raising the legal minimum wage, allocating more money to public health, and passing measures designed to tackle child poverty and domestic violence. However, the three-year term was also marked by a number of policy failures and U-turns. For example, KiwiBuild, the government’s scheme to build 100,000 affordable homes between 2017 and 2027, was axed after only 18 months, and plans to offer fee-free tertiary education were cut back significantly. The current Labour-Green coalition has been criticized for not delivering on its promise to tackle child poverty. According to many critics, the boost in welfare benefits implemented in 2021 does not go far enough (Edward 2021). Moreover, despite declaring a “climate emergency” in December 2020, current environmental policies are not sufficient to meet New Zealand’s commitments under the Paris Agreement (Morton 2020). On the other hand, the Ardern administration has been praised globally for its success in implementing its COVID-19 “elimination” strategy; even though the strategy was abandoned in October 2021 after the arrival of the delta variant made lockdowns less effective at containing the virus (Frost 2021).
Edwards (2021) “Why Labour raised benefits, and why it’s not enough.” Newshub.

Frost (2021) “New Zealand abandons its goal of eliminating the coronavirus.” The New York Times.

Morton (2020) “Analysis: What does declaring a ‘climate emergency’ actually do?” 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 two-party minority government. A negotiated agreement among the coalition partners serves as a platform for policy objectives, but this 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 have 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 and education policy. The decline in government effectiveness in several areas is taking place slowly over time. In particular, this applies to decisions regarding the geographical location for state institutions like hospitals and universities.
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, 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) in 2018 noted an increase in the number of major projects for which delivery is “in doubt” or “unachievable” compared to five years earlier. In the IfG’s 2022 Whitehall Monitor, it identifies positive responses to the pandemic, noting, for example, that “the government could quickly develop and roll out large new digital services.” But the report also draws attention to failings in public procurement from having departed from normal processes and from the many “political problems facing the government, which are already proving a distraction from its agenda.” Arguably, these difficulties suggest that, although the power conferred to the prime minister is often an advantage in implementation, it can be a disadvantage if the incumbent is beleaguered.

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 the implementation of government 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 were soon resolved by a return to majority government.

During much of the pandemic, the devolved governments and, to a lesser extent, of the metropolitan areas exhibited an increased self-assuredness in implementing their own preferences in their areas of competence. In these areas of competence, the UK government was responsible only for England. However, in other areas of competence the UK government was able to implement several key policy responses to the pandemic effectively.
The implementation of government policies in Austria strongly reflects the reality of coalition governance. Following the formation of a government, coalition parties agree on policy priorities. Implementation success in different areas is used as a vehicle to promote party agendas, rather than the government’s overall agenda. While under previous governments, each coalition party typically blamed the other for government failures, more recent governments have increasingly sought to abandon that path.

That said, if the coalition partners agree on a policy, it is likely to be adopted, given the high degree of party discipline in parliament and the limited influence of the second chamber. Still, the overall proportion of election pledges that actually become law is lower in Austria than in many other western European countries with more favorable conditions for the fulfillment of election pledges. The realization of several prominent election pledges from the 2019 election campaign, such as a reform of the tenancy law (including the established system of brokerage fees), has been delayed by the pandemic-induced crisis mode that the government has repeatedly found itself in since 2020.
Praprotnik, Katrin & Ennser-Jedenastik, Laurenz, Austria, in: E. Naurin; T.J. Royed, and R. Thomson, Party Mandates and Democracy. Making, Breaking, and Keeping Election Pledges in Twelve Countries, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2019, 241-254.
The Basic Principles of the Government Coalition for 2021 – 2023 are stipulated in the coalition agreement and the Government Action Plan. Additionally, a 100-day program for the first government period (January – May 2021) is publicly available on the government’s website. In contrast to the previous cabinets, the sitting government has set very few meaningful statistical indicators and benchmarks. This makes evaluation of government performance difficult. Major activities in 2021 have been the adoption of various development plans and coping with the impact of COVID-19.
Government measures designed to soften the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis have been relatively successful. The government and regional authorities have had sufficient funds and trained staff available to allow them to implement the measures. Similarly, the organizational competencies and policy instruments available to the implementing authorities have allowed them to implement needed measures.
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 commitment to economic growth, the fight against 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 were already being felt. In spite of the Yellow Vest uprising, which forced the government to slow its pace, Macron continued to pursue his reform agenda, even on very sensitive issues such as reform of the pension system. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the president and the government to suspend and then withdraw a radical, encompassing and ambitious slate of reforms. Opponents from every angle had objected to the change. The overall reform results have been remarkably good in the area of the economy and the fight against unemployment.
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 four 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 (2016 – 2020) was able to push through a few important reform policies, including a new labor code (largely prepared by the previous government), 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 has been 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.

It is somewhat difficult to assess the Šimonytė government’s record, as the government has largely pushed structural reforms into future. At the beginning of the government’s term, policymakers decided to focus their attention on fighting multiple crises, such as the pandemic, illegal migration and geoeconomics (due to relations with China). The junior party in the coalition – the Freedom Party – had several clear policy goals, in particular related to legalizing same-sex partnerships and decriminalizing the use of psychoactive substances. However, neither of these proposals were approved by the parliament, as some members of the coalition were opposed to them. After these failed attempts, tensions have appeared within the coalition. On the other hand, the coalition managed to adopt a new law enabling names to be spelled in official documents using Latin letters that are not part of Lithuanian alphabet – a longstanding issue important for the non-Lithuanian population.

The government should also continue improving the effectiveness and efficiency of its spending. In the World Bank’s 2020 Worldwide Governance Indicators, Lithuania scored at the 83rd percentile for government effectiveness, a slight improvement of three percentage points relative to 2017. 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 coalition-government programs (the most recent covering the period 2018-2023). 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.
“Projects within the framework of the National Action Plan for Integration.” The Luxembourg Government. Ministry of Family Affairs, Integration and the Greater Region (13 July 2021). Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Circular Economy Strategy Luxembourg/Strategie Kreeslafwirtschaft Lëtzebuerg.” The Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (8 February 2021). Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Plan d’action national du Luxembourg pour la mise en oeuvre des Principes directeurs des Nations Unies relatifs aux entreprises et aux droits de l’homme 2020-2022.” Le Gouvernement du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg. Ministère des Sffaires étrangères et européennes (2020). Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Statement of the Consultative Commission on Human Rights of the Grand-Duché of Luxembourg” (2020). Accessed 14 January 2022.
The government in office during the period under review was the 22nd constitutional government of António Costa. This government was guided by the government program, Programa do XXII Governo Constitucional 2019 – 2023. Given the exceptional circumstances caused by the pandemic, the government was fairly successful in implementing its measures. However, it did fail to win approval for its 2022 budget proposal in parliament, which led to a dissolution of parliament in December 2021 and new legislative elections that were scheduled for late January 2022. Thus, the government’s ability to implement its program fully was clearly curtailed by its early demise.
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-mediPrograma do XXII Governo Constitucional, 2019 – 2023
The Spanish government has never instituted a system of benchmarks to evaluate its own performance. However, it has traditionally been successful in the implementation of major policy objectives. Nevertheless, 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 are obstacles to government effectiveness. Moreover, in recent years, the governing party’s parliamentary weakness has become a much greater obstacle. In 2019, the first Sanchez government started an informal system of benchmarks to evaluate its own performance. The third edition of this “Cumpliendo” report, presented in December 2021, concluded that the government had fulfilled 50% of the commitments made in its investiture speech to the parliament. In parliamentary terms, the executive presented 65 legislative initiatives, the second-highest number since 2011 (trailing only 2015), in spite of the high level of fragmentation in the chamber.

In December 2020, the Spanish government approved a royal decree to streamline the Spanish administration and facilitate the bureaucratic process needed to implement the RRP effectively. Among its various components, the decree improved public governance and oversight structures and the frameworks necessary for better collaboration between the public and the private sectors. In order to ensure effective implementation of the plan, the government created several temporary structures and assigned new responsibilities to some existing administrative departments.
Gobierno de España (2021) Cumpliendo
The continuation and resurgence of the health crisis (with the third and fourth waves) has somewhat slowed progress on longer-term issues and commitments made in the government agreement (e.g., green transition, tax reform, nuclear phase out). Even if there have been some advances (e.g., increase in minimum pension, extension of parental leave, reform of sexual criminal law, right to vote at 16 in European Parliament elections, reform of company cars, tax on securities accounts) they are often perceived as marginal and the government does not seem able to make strong decisions on major or “difficult” issues such as the exit from nuclear power or on tax reform, mainly due to the brittleness and ideological diversity of its coalition.

Regarding the measures taken to contain the coronavirus pandemic, the country went through different phases, with varying degrees of effectiveness. This led pundits to describe the government’s crisis management as a roller coaster (or even as “zeroes,” in the words of F. Dehousse in his December 2021 op-ed). At the beginning of 2021, the newly formed De Croo I cabinet inherited a complicated health situation, to say the least, since Belgium had (on paper at least) twice broken the world record for COVID-19 mortality in 2020. This poor performance was partly due to the previous government’s indecision, but also had broader causes. Belgium is a densely populated international hub, home to European institutions. Most of its territory in fact constitutes a large conurbation with connected urban and suburban areas, and there is also a lot of commuting to and from neighboring hubs in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany (the Aachen area) and the north of France (the whole Lille area).

The new government and its strong new federal health minister then imposed strict measures, which, even though they were sometimes criticized by certain elected officials within the majority coalition after they were taken collectively (see also “Interministerial Coordination” and “Policy Communication”), had noticeable effects. So much so that, six months later, the country was making a remarkable recovery. The coronavirus appeared to be under control, and the vaccination rate was one of the highest in Europe.

However, the government, in order to pass its restrictive measures, communicated widely on the forthcoming exit of the crisis thanks to the vaccine solution. The prime minister even said in the media that “the epidemic is becoming an epidemic of the unvaccinated.” This message was given such a strong focus that the non-pharmacological measures of prevention such as social distancing or mask wearing were relegated to the second rank. This has been evidenced, among other factors, by the naming of the “COVID Safe Ticket,” the certification that a person has been vaccinated, received a negative test or has recovered from the coronavirus. Belgium is not the only country to introduce such a measure, but its description and the use of the word “safe” has been subject to criticism for suggesting the absence of risk. The fall of 2021 ended up being characterized by the return of the epidemic in a fourth wave. For its part, the government had lost its unity, and was no longer able to issue clear rules or hold a coherent discourse, being partly betrayed by its own communication during the summer.

The government’s actions were of course complicated by the emergence of the new variants (delta, quickly followed by omicron) that hit all European countries hard. And despite the bungling government performance, at the turn of 2021/22, Belgium’s reproduction rate was still well below that of neighboring countries (the Netherlands had to implement a strong lockdown due to its lack of earlier measures, for instance). The good vaccination rate, among the highest in Europe, as well as the solid start of the booster campaign, together with the fact that earlier measures delayed the omicron wave by a few weeks could partially restore popular support for the government’s less popular measures, and hopefully recover part of its lost effectiveness.
F. Dehousse (Dec. 2021 oped):
Significant structural reforms were legislated by successive Greek governments in the decade to 2021, but their mix and implementation were and continue to be uneven. Policy implementation efforts have been problematic because of bureaucratic and legal wranglings. For instance, long-awaited reforms in higher education and the pension system were legislated, but not really implemented.

Nevertheless, in 2020–2021, progress was made. The World Bank Government Effectiveness indicator – which measures, among other things, the quality of policy formulation and implementation, and the credibility of the government’s commitment to such policies – recorded a rise from 0.29 in 2018 to 0.44 in 2020.

Some flagship investment projects, such as the Hellinikon project, moved forward. The government was successful in striking a deal with private investors for the development of the decommissioned Hellinikon airport, on the coast just outside Athens. After long delays in the pre-2019 period, the €8 billion project started at the end of 2021. It will combine public parks, beachfront residences, and high-end shopping and office spaces in a vast area. If successful, the project could create as many as 75,000 jobs and increase the country’s GDP by four percentage points. The beginning of implementation of Greece’s biggest development project is an indication of improved government effectiveness in the period under review.
World Bank, Government Effectiveness available at,2020

Information on the Hellinikon project is available at
and also at the official site of the project:
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, fisheries management reform, 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 center-right 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 2017–2021 center-right-left coalition cabinet held a majority of seats (35 to 28 seats, which later became 33 to 30 seats) and had no 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. The coalition remained in office following the 2021 election, this time with a larger majority (38 to 25 seats) and there are no signs of intragovernmental dissension.
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. In 2020, there were 32 acts of the Oireachtas signed into law and 760 statutory instruments. This trend plays some role in shifting 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. As above, at the time of writing, Irish Water plans to introduce household charges for excess water use in 2022, according to the Irish Water Charges Plan (IW, 2021)

Ireland’s aging water and sewage system infrastructure necessitates significant future capital expenditure. 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.
Gallagher, M. (2010), “The Oireachtas,’ chpt 7 of John Coakley and Michael Gallagher (eds), Politics in the Republic of Ireland. London: Routledge and PSAI Press.

Irish Water (2021) Irish Water Charges Plan, Irish Water, 01 October, available at:

O’Malley, E. & Martin, S. (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.
According to the government’s own reports, in recent years, there has been an improvement in the execution of government decisions, with 79% of all objectives achieved in 2018. 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.

The implementation of COVID-19 measures in Israel was accompanied by difficulties and inefficiencies in many aspects, including difficulties caused by political and economic pressure groups, a lack of staff, the inefficient allocation of funds, and budgetary concerns. These inefficiencies made it difficult for the government to implement its policies quickly and effectively. Indeed, Israel ranks 19th worldwide in terms of how well it has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data compiled by the Bloomberg website. (Bloomberg, 2021).

The implementation of health policies has been partly successful and partly very unsuccessful. Israel’s vaccine program outpaced every other county as of January 2021 (Handrix & Rubin 2020) and the number of COVID-19 tests conducted per person in Israel was one of the highest in the world. However, the epidemiological investigation apparatus lacked the required staff at the beginning of the crisis compared to other countries. Six months into the pandemic, the Ministry of Health still relied exclusively on an old, outdated and insufficient epidemiological investigation management system. Furthermore, an absence of synchronization between the Ministry of Health and Education Ministry’s online systems, and between investigators in different cities (which led to numerous delays and errors) undermined the swift implementation of quarantine measures.

Regarding the implementation of economic measures, the lack of suitable protocols and sufficient staff in the Israel Tax Authority (ITO) has created serious tension and frustration between the recipients of emergency economic aid and the agency. The State Comptroller pointed to malfunctions in the agency’s computers and online systems, and to distorted eligibility criteria set for receiving aid. Regarding enforcement personnel, the Israeli police force lacked the necessary staff to enforce the restrictions imposed during the three lockdowns. To tackle the lack of policing staff, the government allowed city inspectors to issue fines for violation of restriction rules, a decision that created substantial differences in the level of enforcement between various municipalities, especially between small and large municipalities (Senior 2020).
Bloomberg, 2021, “Covid Resilience Ranking”Retrived from:
Aflalo, Eti. 2020. “Distortions in the ITO’s criteria for Covid’s grants reception,” Calcalist website, October 26, 2020 (Hebrew).,7340,L-3865790,00.html.

Ashkenazi, Shani. 2020. “From Ikea to Hare’l Vizel: how the ‘combina’(Shadiness) overcame the Corona.” Globes, November 27, 2020 (Hebrew).

Ashkenazi, Shani. 2020. “The head of epidemiological investigations resigned: “millions go in quarantine for no reason.”” Globes, December 23, 2020 (Hebrew).

Ashkenazi, Shani. 2020. “The Health ministry still does not have an effective system off epidemiological investigations.” Globes, October 26, 2020 (Hebrew).

Ben-Tovim, Idan. 2020. “The Health Ministry stops the development of ‘the Shield’, preferring to compel you to install a new application.” GeekTime website, December 1, 2020 (Hebrew).

Hendrix, Steve and Rubin, Shira. 2020. “Israel is vaccinating so fast it’s running out of vaccine.” The Washington Post, January 4, 2020 (Hebrew).

Israel’s State Comptroller. 2020. “Intermediate report: Israel’s tackling with the Covid-19 Crisis,” Israel’s State Comptroller, (Hebrew).
Senior, Eli. 2020. “Not only policeman: inspectors will also be able to fine violators of Covid-19 distance rules.” Ynet website, April 13, 2020 (Hebrew).,7340,L-5713909,00.html.
While the economy improved when Prime Minister Abe was in power (2012-2020), major aspects of the government’s economic-policy program remained unrealized. Most critically, structural reforms have not been carried out as promised, partly because the government’s key policy agenda has been sidetracked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic growth remains weak and the two percent inflation goal 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.

Although the new Digital Agency was created in pursuit of former Prime Minister Suga’s digitalization policy reform – one of the two structural reforms announced in 2020 – there are already signs of backtracking and reduced tempo with respect to the second reform, that is, achieving carbon-neutrality by 2050.

In terms of international relations, the Japanese government has been at the forefront of pushing the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, also seeking to balance an increasingly assertive China. A trade pact was successfully concluded in late 2019 with Japan’s core ally, the United States, though this came 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,
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 November 2021, the PMO and the Ministry of Finance stated that 82% of measures announced in the previous year had been successfully implemented. This success is due to a greatly improved public service. The overall ability to implement policies is further evidenced by the overwhelming support enjoyed by the government.
Although problems remain, such as backlogs stretching back several years. These problems include insufficient oversight of service providers, 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. Meanwhile, improvements have been evident in the quality of projects implemented, including roadworks, several infrastructural projects and social housing. One questionable feature is the high amount of direct orders traditionally dished out by governments under the pretext that procurement policies take too long.
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
The 202O Auditor General report on the public accounts
During the 2015–2019 term, the PiS government has been quite effective in implementing its policy objectives. Favored by its absolute majority in parliament and PiS’s internal discipline, it 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 realized them rather quickly. Precisely because so many bills have sailed so quickly through parliament, however, the quality of legislation was often very poor, requiring immediate amendments.

Since the 2019 parliamentary elections, the PiS government’s effectiveness has declined, as the rifts within the governing coalition have grown. Due to widespread criticism from both inside and outside the governing coalition, the government eventually had to give up its original plan to hold presidential elections in May 2020. While the government, despite its dependence on independent members of parliament since August 2021, found a parliamentary majority for adopting its “Polish Deal” program, the legislation has suffered from massive internal inconsistencies and frequent amendments. At the end of 2021, President Duda vetoed the government’s controversial legislation on media ownership (“lex TVN”).
The Šarec government’s coalition agreement was relatively sparse in content and far less detailed than that of the previous government, but the Janša government’s coalition agreement is much more detailed. While the Šarec government was successful in reaching an agreement with the government’s social partners on public sector wage rises and abandoning some austerity measures, it was much less successful in other policy areas and failed to launch any substantial policy reform. The government’s appetite for reform abated toward its second year in the office and government support in the parliament was often lacking. Once the Janša government took over in March 2020, it had to deal with the pandemic and implemented a wide range of anti-coronavirus measures, as Prime Minister Šarec resigned in late January 2020 and failed to prepare the country for the upcoming health and economic crisis. During the period under review, the Janša government was quite successful in implementing its own policy objectives, despite a very thin majority in the parliament. Notable achievements included adopting the Long-term Care Act (a major goal for all coalition governments over the last two decades, which had never previously even reached the parliamentary procedure), progress on several infrastructure projects initiated by previous governments (e.g., the construction of a second railway track to the port of Koper and the second Karavanke highway tunnel to Austria), major progress on digitalization (e.g., introducing digital highway vignettes), the substantially improvement in relations with all Slovenia’s neighbors and the Visegrad countries, and adopting a minor tax reform as well as a state budget for 2021–23.
South Korea
In South Korea’s presidential system, power is concentrated in the office of the president. However, presidents are also limited to a single five-year term, which means that they can become lame ducks even after completing only half of their term. The Moon administration was somewhat more effective than its predecessor with regard to the implementation of policies, although implementation still fell far short of the president’s ambitious goals (i.e., 100 Policy Tasks). Despite the strong personal mandate deriving from his decisive election victory and strong popularity, Moon’s Democratic Party lacked a majority in parliament until the April 2020 parliamentary elections. Moreover, managing the COVID-19 pandemic overshadowed most other policy priorities in 2020. Nevertheless, the president has far-reaching powers and Moon implemented several important measures that he had promised, including increases in the minimum wage; the creation of new jobs in the public sector; a reduction in the maximum workweek to 52 hours; an expansion of the social safety net; the establishment of an independent anti-corruption agency; the expansion of the autonomy of local governments via amendments of the Local Autonomy Act (e.g., autonomous local police, increased local fiscal authority, enhanced local councils); the adoption of critical and long-overdue labor rights protections; the creation of space for SMEs and startups through regulatory easing; the establishment of more ambitious climate change mitigation targets; the enhancement of Korea’s role in global governance, particularly in the realm of global public health; and the development of a blueprint for Korea’s transition to a digital and green future. However, Moon also postponed or failed to achieve some of his original agenda items, such as the constitutional reform designed to decentralize power, election reform, pension reform, real estate reform and chaebol (business conglomerate) reform.

Moreover, President Moon managed to deliver on these promises while successfully managing the COVID-19 crisis. Indeed, Korea’s COVID-19 response is a compelling example of well-coordinated policy execution – across sectors, levels of administration and the political aisle. Meetings of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters (CDSCHQ) meetings, which gather together representatives of all relevant ministries and 17 provinces and major cities, have been held regularly in order to maintain a united national effort in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus. These meetings allow for regular coordination among the highest-level officials and between the central and local governments, which is crucial for jointly identifying problems, blockages and solutions. The regular meetings support the concerted implementation process and the effective allocation of central government resources, and enable rapid local adaptation to changing circumstances when needed. Attesting to the strength of the system, there were no relevant COVID-related disruptions of basic public services. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has been able to mobilize the public administration to ensure testing, tracing and quarantine enforcement. While COVID-19 necessitated emergency measures – such as temporary suspension of personal data privacy and association rights – these have been implemented in accordance with relevant laws and by appropriate, designated authorities. The executive and other branches of government have functioned effectively and within their designated authority.
“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
Brookings Doha Center. “Policy & Institutional Responses to COVID-19: South Korea,” June 2021.
Measures relating to the COVID-19 pandemic were implemented rather swiftly due to Turkey’s transition to a presidential system in 2018, which gave the executive more power than the legislature or the judiciary. Throughout the pandemic, the constructive stance of the oppositional parties also facilitated the implementation of coronavirus-related measures.

Despite the success in containing the pandemic, governmental inefficiency has been widespread, especially in relation to the economy. Economic activity in the first nine months following the implementation of the government’s annual economic objectives varied sharply from the official budget and the 2017 – 2019 medium-term fiscal plan forecasts. The recent devaluation of the Turkish lira increased the fiscal burden. Greater fiscal discipline is foreseen in the 2020 – 2022 medium-term fiscal plan. The inflation targets by the central bank have been subject to revisions on many occasions.

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, has effectively created the potential for huge deficits, as the revenues for these projects are guaranteed by the treasury.
Strateji ve Bütçe Başkanlığı. Orta Vadeli Program (2022-2024).

Bloomberg. “Merkez Bankası 2021 enflasyon tahminini yükseltti. July 29, 2021.
The government partly fails to implement its objectives or fails to implement several policy objectives.
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.

There have been several test cases in 2021 and 2022, the most important being the Recovery and Resilience Plan and the Plan to Join the Eurozone. In both instances, the new government demonstrated some capacity to work consistently in targeting its stated objectives.

Government-body budgeting in Bulgaria remains primarily based on historical expenditures, and does not involve programmatic elements, which would necessitate benchmarking and measurement.

The Borisov government and its two successive caretaker governments have failed to limit the powers of the prosecutor general, to depoliticize the Supreme Judicial Council and to effectively prosecute high-level political corruption.
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). 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, the government under President Piñera had to adjust its program and policy objectives significantly in order to restore social order and peace. This situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the government to reallocate resources and redefine priorities.

The website of the Intelligent Citizenship Foundation (Fundación Ciudadanía Inteligente) reviews the balance of compliance between the Piñera government’s second-year legislative promises and the announcements made during the social mobilizations in Chile. By the end of the period under review, the rate of compliance was indicated as only 37% (the percentage indicates the average progress made by all the promises contained in the government program).
Independent initiative to measure and assess implementation of the government program:
Intelligent Citizenship Foundation (Ciudadanía Inteligente),, last accessed: 13 January 2022.
Intelligent Citizenship Foundation (Ciudadanía Inteligente), “Del deicho al hecho. Cuánto cumple el gobierno”,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.
The European Commission and the IMF considered the government’s management of COVID-19-induced economic impacts to be relatively good. They praised the containment of unemployment, which in 2021 returned to the pre-crisis rate, and the positive effects of the recovery on the current account deficit, which was affected by measures of support. Support measures were timely and funded by cushion reserves. An early recovery was a surprise, although the IMF suggests that special measures are needed in order to compensate for the uneven impact of the crisis on various groups. The European Commission points to risks from the current account deficit; inflation, which has increased due to higher energy prices; and the increase in costs for the General Health System (GESY). The European Commission also called for caution if KEDIPES is transformed into a national asset management company. It notes the expected positive impact from the implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Plan.

With the recovery that started in early 2021, the initial increase in public debt due to the introduction of support measures has receded and is expected to fall below 100% in 2022.

Despite good economic indicators, both the European Union and the IMF underline that uncertainty about how the COVID-19 crisis will develop remains a major risk for the economy.
1. IMF, Cyprus: Cyprus 2021 Article IV Consultation – Press Release and Staff Report, June 2021, x
3. European Commission, Post_programme Surveillance Report, Cyprus, Autumn 2021,
The government manifesto of the new center-right government is long and ambitious, but also relatively vague (Szekeres 2021). The document mentions the word “reform” 41 times and promises far-reaching changes. One important priority has been to strengthen judicial independence and fight corruption. In this area, the government has acted swiftly. Already at the end of 2020, it adopted a comprehensive judicial reform prepared by Minister of Justice Mária Kolíková (Za ľudí – For the People) (European Commission 2020, 2021). The reform has included a reform of the Judicial Council, the establishment of a new, Supreme Administrative Court, property checks of justices, an age cap for justices, changes in the appointment of Constitutional Court justices as well as changes in the territorial layout of district and regional appeal courts. However, the implementation of these reforms has faced resistance not only by the “old guard,” that is, those justices and prosecutors most affected by such reforms. The originally planned reduction in the number of district courts, which aimed at weakening long-established ties between justices, politicians, oligarchs and organized crime, has been blocked by Sme-Rodina. The massive frictions within the governing coalition, along with the short-term pressures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, have also contributed to a delay and a watering down of reforms in other fields, such as taxes, pensions, healthcare and education.
Szekeres, E. (2021): Ambitious, vague, unrealistic: Slovak government manifesto draws mixed reactions, in: Kafkadesk, May 9 (
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. Then came the pandemic, which generated 19 emergency laws. All in all, out of 363 proposed original new bills (minus approvals of EU legislation, treaties and technical “repair” laws), a total of 186 (51%) had been adopted by January 2021; as of the time of writing 23 bills were awaiting approval in the First Chamber. However, in its overall assessment of government performance, including goals achievement, 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.

Ineffective policy shows up in virtually all policy areas and departments. In international comparisons the Netherlands scores low with regard to generating sustainable energy and building new houses, and very high with regard to the emissions of nitrogen. The education system produces inequality among students; economic inequalities are increasing; infrastructure maintenance (roads, bridges) is overdue; there is a tremendous backlog in the exams for driving licenses; substantial amounts of cocaine and synthetic drugs are imported or produced; the percentage of physically and mentally challenged workers in paid jobs is among the lowest in Europe; and the coronavirus-era track-and-trace, testing and vaccination programs all suffered from organizational barriers and personnel shortages.

No doubt the most shocking and politically impactful case of policy failure was the childcare benefits system as implemented by the tax authorities. Tens of thousands of families (often of non-Dutch descent) were considered to have acted fraudulently on flimsy evidence, illegally placed on fraud lists without being informed about it, and “lawfully” subjected to recovery regimes that pushed them into poverty for a long time. In many cases, this led psychological problems, divorce and even loss of custody of children. Any proportionality between the size and severity of violations and the degree of punishment was completely disregarded. This is no longer denied even in parliament, which is partly to blame because of over-hasty and sloppy legislative initiatives pushing for zero tolerance on social benefits fraud. Ironically, parliament’s insistence on fast and across-the-board compensation for the victims has turned into an implementation nightmare itself. (The Rutte IV cabinet has a special deputy minister to clear up the mess.) Even legal appeals fell on deaf ears for many years, as the High Court systematically followed the tax authorities’ stricter-than-strict interpretation of the law. This scandal evolved between 2009-2020 and, demonstrating poor policy feedback mechanisms, was only documented by the Van Dam Parliamentary Investigative Commission in the autumn of 2020. After publication of this report (“Unprecedented Injustice”), only two politicians (among many more) directly responsible for the tax authorities’ conduct in the recent past immediately ended their (national) political career. On 15 January 2021, the Rutte III cabinet collectively and symbolically stepped down, but in fact continued on as a caretaker government to deal with urgent coronavirus matters, prepare national elections in March 2021 and govern the country during the cabinet formation process that would last a record number of days from 17 March 2021 until 10 January 2022.
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)

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

B. van den Braak, 2021. Bescheiden ambities en smalle marges. De wetgevingsoogst van Rutte III, in Montesquieu Instituut, ‘Niet zo stoffig, toch?’ Terugblik op het kabinet Rutte III, 105-108

Bernard ter Haar, blog published 23 April, 2021. De Nederlandse overheid heeft deze eeuw nog niets substantieels tot stand gebracht.

De Correspondent, Jesse Frederik, January 15, 2021. De tragedie achter de toeslagenaffaire

RTL Nieuws, March 5, 2021 Toeslagenschandaal veel groter

NOS Nieuws, November 29, 2021.Duizenden in financiële problemen gebracht door zwarte lijst Belastingdienst.

Volkskrant, Witteman, August 20, 2021. Vermorzeld in de raderen van de Belastingdienst

NRC-H., van den Bunt, March 16 2021.Catshuisregeling betekent weer systeemfalen.
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 Trump administration implemented major policy initiatives by issuing executive orders and thereby avoiding the process of legislative change. Preoccupied by the Mueller investigation and divided party control, Congress passed no major legislation in 2019. Trump was by far the least productive of any modern president so far.

Things changed somewhat in 2020 and 2021, with the enactment of major COVID-19 stimulus legislation. In 2021, the Biden administration put forward an ambitious Build Back Better legislative agenda but these efforts have been stalled by a few moderate Democratic Senators, who acquired veto power due to the tiny Democratic majority in the Senate – and are unlikely to pass the bill through Congress before the 2022 midterm elections.
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 2020 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 2019 (i.e., Milanović, Orešković and Plenković governments) is rather low. Only 43% of all country-specific recommendations addressed to Croatia have recorded at least “some progress,” while another 43% of recommendations have recorded “limited” or “no progress,” and only in 7% have either full implementation or substantial progress been recorded. Reform activity in relation to key structural policy areas such as the judiciary, the health sector, education, pensions, social policy and reform of the public administration has stalled in recent years.

In 2020, Plenković’s government continued the legacy of previous governments of passing multiple laws using the urgent procedure, albeit to a lesser extent than in previous years. In 2015, 85 laws were passed using this urgent procedure, which requires only one reading by the parliament, while only 35 laws were passed using the regular procedure. In 2020, 70 laws were passed using the urgent procedure, while 68 laws were passed utilizing the regular procedure. Unfortunately, the intense use of this procedure significantly downgrades the overall quality of laws passed.

However, the biggest policy-implementation problem has been the catastrophic delay in the reconstruction of Zagreb and the Banija area, which were severely damaged in the 2020 earthquakes. In Banija, by mid-January the government had not instituted the construction of a single house, so renovation efforts had been limited to those funded by a small number of private donations. The state-led construction was expected to begin only in February 2022.
European Commission (2020): Commission Staff Working Document – Country report Croatia 2020. SWD(2020) 510 final, Brussels (

Kotarski, Kristijan (2019)

Vlada Republike Hrvatske (2021) Izvješće o provedbi plana zakonodavnih aktivnosti (Report on the Implementation of the Plan of Legislative Activities). Zagreb: Ured za zakonodavstvo. (
The effectiveness of the Babiš government has suffered from the lack of a parliamentary majority. It failed to implement the announced pension reform and succeeded in implementing its tax reform only on a second go. After the Social Democrats, ANO’s junior coalition partner, refused to support tax cuts amidst the pandemic, ANO worked together with the opposition ODS to push the law through. The serial failures to control the COVID-19 pandemic indicate an area in which the government was not successful. Crisis management was undermined by a power struggle within the coalition between ANO and the Social Democrats over the creation of advisory bodies for crisis management. As a result of this struggle, there was no adequate independent expert advisory body. More importantly, success was undermined by Babiš’s premature claims that Czechia had successfully mitigated the worst of the pandemic and that the government did not need to rely on expert policy advice.
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.
President López Obrador has announced a highly ambitious reform agenda – the so-called fourth transformation – that is aimed at transforming Mexico socially, economically and politically. New social programs are being implemented and projects targeting the poor south have been announced, including infrastructure projects. President López Obrador has a unified government, with a majority in Congress supporting him. This has enabled him to concentrate power in the presidency. Additionally, he has very high levels of popular support. Hence, structural factors for implementing the agenda are very good. Nevertheless, he has failed to achieve key elements of his agenda, such as tackling corruption and ending the war on drugs. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely hit Mexico, producing serious economic challenges and one of the highest death tolls in the world. The government’s reform agenda was and remains too ambitious, and yet has not measured up to the even more demanding challenges of the last several years.
Romania’s revolving door of governments has reduced the government’s effectiveness and ability to advance consistent and meaningful legislative programs. In 2020 and 2021, Romania experienced two failed coalitions, which resulted in the collapse of government in addition to the parliamentary elections in 2020. This has made it extremely difficult for any government to advance its priorities. The European Commission’s 2020 Country Report on Romania indicates only moderate progress in ensuring the long-term viability of the second pension pillar and in implementing the national public procurement strategy. Meanwhile, limited or no progress has been made in strengthening tax compliance; improving the quality and inclusiveness of education; increasing the coverage and quality of social services; improving social dialogue; developing a minimum wage-setting mechanism based on objective criteria; improving access and cost-efficiency of healthcare; focusing investments on key policy areas; ensuring the national fiscal framework is implemented; ensuring the sustainability of the public pension system; improving skills in the labor force; completing the minimum inclusion income reform; and improving the predictability of decision-making.
European Commission (2020): Country Report, Romania. Brussels. ( port-romania_en.pdf)
The government largely fails to implement its policy objectives.
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