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 number of public sector institutions fell by 23% (by 1,000 in absolute numbers) between 2016 and 2019. 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 Skvernelis government (2016 – 2020) approved a set of reform guidelines for ministerial and agency administrations, which led to organizational restructuring in 2019. Skvernelis’ government 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. The Šimonytė government (in office since late 2020) has begun a reform of the innovation sector involving the merger of several institutions (Enterprise Lithuania; the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology; and the Lithuanian Business Support Agency). The goal is to “create the foundations for an effective (and high quality) expansion of the innovation ecosystem and the development of priority economic sectors at the international level” (Enterprise Lithuania). Preparations for a broad reform of the public administration are being made, with adoption planned for 2022.
Vidaus reikalų ministerija ir Strata, “Viešojo sektoriaus ataskaita, 2016-2019 metai.” Vilnius, 2020

Enterprise Lithuania, “Inovacijų agentūros koncepcija.”
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 February 2021, the new Public Service Act came into force, replacing the 1988 State Services Act. The stated objective of the new legislation is to create a “unified public service.” While government departments and agencies previously had a tendency to work in “silos,” the Public Service Act puts more emphasis on working together (New Zealand Government 2020; Walls 2019).
New Zealand Government (2020) Parliament passes Bill to reform public service.

Walls (2019) “Government will repeal and replace the State Sector Act with a new, modern law.” New Zealand Herald.
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 were 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 has been the 2% across-the-board budget reduction (omprioriteringsbidrag), with the savings being reallocated to new initiatives. It is unclear whether this has actually resulted in improved efficiency and productivity.

While the structure and role of municipalities, and especially the regions, is a subject of ongoing debate, there is no indication that major structural reforms will be undertaken in the near future. The current Social Democratic government is focused on improving performance within the existing structure and has dropped the annual 2% across-the-board budget reduction target. It has also increased funding for municipalities and regions.
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).
As pointed out above (“Strategic Capacity”), the government has expanded its strategic capacities in recent years. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research acts as coordinator within the Foresight process. It remains to be seen if this process helps improve while creating a shared understanding of strategic planning across the ministries. The new government has adjusted the responsibilities of some ministries. In this context, climate policy has been strategically upgraded. With regard to the cross-cutting issue of digital policies, effective coordination in Germany is still lacking (see Hess/Egle 2022).

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 are crucial to 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 the last years, several reforms relating to the financial relations between the federal level and the states were adopted.
Hess, Thomas and Christoph Egle (2022): Digital Governance in Regierungen: Die Chance von
Dotted Lines, in: ifo Schnelldienst 2/2022, p. 16-20
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 planning center in 2010, have significantly improved the government’s strategic capacity and ability to undertake long-term strategic planning. In 2023, the PKC will be merged into the State Chancellery, again with the goal of improving capacities.
1. LSM (2021) Kariņš instructs to add the Interdepartmental Coordination Center to the State Chancellery from 2023, Available (in Latvian) at:, Last accessed: 10.01.2022.
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. After the 2019 general election victory and the return of majority government, institutional flexibility was demonstrated by, for example, merging the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Department of International Development. A key manifesto commitment – “leveling-up” – is expected to be fleshed out in 2022 and was already given impetus by broadening the remit of the Ministry for Housing into the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Cross-departmental coordination will be part of this development.
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.
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.

The frequency of departmental reorganizations has diminished in recent years. However, in 2017, the Liberal government split Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada into two departments, the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, and the Department of Indigenous Services. The two departments respectively focus on renewing a nation-to-nation relationship and improving the quality of services available.

Recently, there has been progress made on certain aspects of Indigenous services, including the lifting of boil water advisories in Indigenous communities and investment in water infrastructure. However, given the ongoing challenges in basic infrastructural needs of Indigenous peoples (water, housing, environmental protection) and slow progress on reconciliation issues, it is unclear how these institutional changes have served these larger needs.
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 Ministry for Planning and Co-operation (Ministerio de Planificación y Cooperación, Mideplan) was transformed into the Ministry of Social Development and Family (Ministerio de Desarrollo Social y Familia, MDS), with some minor institutional changes that increased its strategic capacity, and the Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation was created in 2018. In September 2021, President Piñera signed a law creating the Ministry of Public Security (Ministerio de Seguridad Pública), including the Agency for Cybersecurity, as part of the modernization of the country’s state security and citizen protection apparatus. 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.
Chilean Government on the creation of the Ministry of Public Security,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.
While institutional arrangements have not changed much, the Marin government has continuously considered plans to promote and implement strategic aims within government. The government initially appointed six strategic ministerial working groups, in which ministers from different departments guided and directed the implementation of government-program items within specific policy areas. The pandemic disrupted efforts to develop institutional arrangements further. Three additional ministerial working groups have since been appointed to deal with the issues of sustainable growth; the digital transformation, the data economy and public administration; and coordination of the COVID-19 response.
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. The weak capacity of the 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. This situation has forced the government to adopt a more cautious approach and/or to drop the most ambitious or encompassing reforms. For instance, the planned constitutional reform has been blocked by the Senate, whose agreement is necessary, while the pension reform was postponed until after the presidential elections of spring 2022. The distractions of the pandemic have served as another factor slowing the pace of reform, even though some reformist activity has been kept alive (for instance the reform of unemployment benefits).
After the elections of July 2019, the new government devised plans to reform central-government institutions in a variety of policy sectors. 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 in a new law adopted in 2019. Thereafter, the Presidency of the Government designed procedures to strengthen the state’s strategic capacity, which were quickly rolled out across different policy sectors. These 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 promote economic development, after the European Union launched the Recovery and Resilience Fund. The government devised the Recovery and Resilience Plan, which the European Commission approved in 2021. It also developed a strategy to manage migration inflows and to facilitate the transfer of migrants from overcrowded islands in the Aegean Sea to the Greek mainland. Finally, the government established the new National Security Council and the new National Authority on Transparency. Overall, strategic capacity that draws on scientific knowledge and long-term planning has vastly improved.
The law reorganizing the Prime Minister’s Office was Law 4622/2019
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 four.

The government has not chosen to build on the reforms implemented under IMF supervision after the financial collapse of 2008 or to honor its own unanimous resolution from 2010. The resolution stated that “criticism of Iceland’s political culture must be taken seriously and [parliament] stresses the need for lessons to be learned from it” (authors’ translation). Related to this, strategic capacity has decreased as the government has been immersed in one political scandal after another, which has weakened governance. This is evidenced by the fact that Iceland’s per capita GDP (i.e., purchasing power) was lower in 2020 than in 2007 (World Bank, World Development Indicators).
Radical change was called for in the wake of the dramatic policy and governance failures that contributed to the severity of the post-2008 economic and social crisis. However, the specific reforms implemented have been relatively limited. Nonetheless, some improvements in strategic capacity introduced during the period of the Troika agreement have been retained. Reform of the legal system was strongly recommended by the Troika, but little has happened in this sphere in the decade or more since.

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 was established, and a parliamentary inquiry into the banking crisis was established in 2014 and reported in early 2016.

Since 2016, following a recommendation from the Constitutional Convention, members of 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 system, four of the 13 current core Oireachtas committees are chaired by opposition members (Eolas, 2020).
In 2018, the Basic Law: the Government and the Government Act of 2001 were slightly amended to formulate and delineate the cabinet’s authorities. This was done following State Comptroller reports that suggested that the cabinet’s authorities and jurisdictions are not legally specified, and that there are serious deficiencies regarding the extent and the quality of information being transferred to the cabinet. And yet, it is still 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,
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 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.

While the previous path toward constitutional reform was abandoned after several failed attempts, the current Draghi government has adopted a softer strategy to improve its policy capacities. A greater concentration of decision-making powers in the hands of the prime minister and of the prime minister’s staff has been coupled with a regular and more effective mechanism of consultation with the leaders of the parties supporting the government. It remains to be seen if such arrangements will continue under a new government.
The failure of the reform initiatives led by the short-lived DPJ governments (2009-2012) 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 (2012-2020) was quite successful in getting at least parts of its policy agenda implemented. 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 also 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.
In 2021, the government launched its Electronic Governance 2021-2025 strategy, which was drawn up jointly by the Ministry for Digitalization and the Government IT Centre (CTIE), with the aim of enhancing e-government mechanisms and enabling the transition to digital government. To achieve this, the government’s IT center is currently bolstering its digital services infrastructures, thus achieving very high levels of security and reliability. Due to the fact that all services provided the Luxembourg public authorities have now been digitized, the application procedure for the various COVID-19 aid schemes was streamlined for citizens and companies alike via the portal.

As a new step related to the administrative reform and simplification process, the national portal for public inquiries,, which was launched in 2021, provides information about various procedures. Public inquiries are formal and mandatory prior to certain administrative decisions.

Another ambitious reform ongoing since 2010 has been the general opening of the civil service to citizens of the European Union, with the exception of some positions relating to national sovereignty. The change is expected to gradually improve the quality of government administration.
“Electronic Governance 2021-2025’ strategy.” The Luxembourg Government (2021). Accessed 14 January 2022.

“The national portal for public inquiries.” The Luxembourg Government. Ministry of Digitalization (2021). Accessed on 14 January 2022.
There can be little doubt that the government’s determination to ensure that Malta retains a strong position within EU structures has had an impact on institutional reform. But the actual force behind the improvements has been public services, not the cabinet. Unfortunately, ministers remain constrained by the demands of their constituencies and without electoral change this will remain so. 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.
Malta Today 17/01/2020 Rule of Law and good governance are at the top of the country’s agenda, Malta PM tells ambassadors
F. Bezzina, E. Camilleri & V. Marmara, (2021), Public Service Reforms in a Small Island State: the case of Malta, Springer Publications.
In 2020 and 2021, several important changes were introduced with regard to policy portfolios and associated ministries, in line with the coalition government’s policy priorities and requirements for implementing the RRP. This included the creation of several new departments (including the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic challenge and Ministry of Social Rights and Agenda 2030), and changes in the names and responsibilities of others. However, these changes did not significantly alter strategic capacities or policymaking structures.
Oficina Nacional de Prospectiva y Estrategia del Gobierno de España (2021), España 2050,

Real Decreto 507/2021, de 10 de julio, por el que se modifica el Real Decreto 2/2020, de 12 de enero, por el que se reestructuran los departamentos ministeriales.
The basic institutional arrangements of governing have remained largely stable for many years. The creation of secretary-generals in the departments and the regime of “message control” at the level of government communication, introduced by the ÖVP-FPÖ government (2017–2019) and continued under the successive ÖVP-Green government, were designed to increase the government’s strategic capacity. The overall effects of these reforms have, however, remained uncertain. Apparently, the key ambition was to better sell government policies rather than to fundamentally expand the government’s policymaking capacity.

Regarding public policymaking, governments tend to promise more innovation at the beginning of a legislative period than they can actually deliver. Desired improvements are often prevented by constitutional limitations (e.g., the collective character of the Austrian cabinet) and, no less often, by internal rivalries within coalition governments. 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. This is particularly true in the legislative arena, as many major bills require a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Some recent efforts to improve the state of play can, however, be identified. The Austrian Youth Strategy, coordinated by the Federal Chancellery, is designed to strengthen and develop youth policy throughout Austria. The goal of this strategy is to bring together policies and measures for young people in order to make them systematic and to optimize their effectiveness.
Under the second Babiš government, the institutional arrangements of governing remained mostly unchanged. Babiš cultivated his technocratic image by making several career civil servants ministers, and sought to increase the strategic capacity of his government primarily by exploiting his strong position as ANO leader and his grip on the media. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government created a new advisory body, the Central Emergency Task Force (ÚKŠ), and reactivated the dormant National Economic Council of the Government (NERV). However, both bodies soon lost importance.
Senior politicians and executive officials understand the problem of fragmented policymaking. The overall purpose of these efforts is to increase GDP and improve the quality of governance. In 2019, large-scale government reform (riigireform) was made a top priority. 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, the only progress visible has been in the consolidation of various government agencies. In 2020–2021, nine studies of institutional reform were commissioned and several institutional mergers were implemented.
South Korea
The Moon administration was expected to carry out some institutional reforms during his term. Most importantly, President Moon pledged to decentralize the political system by transferring previously centralized powers to national ministries and agencies as well as to regional and local governments. While the broader effort to achieve regionally balanced development was delayed, the Moon administration did push through some reforms via amendments to the Local Autonomy Act (e.g., autonomous local police, increased local fiscal authority, enhanced local councils). Moon also took concrete steps to reform national institutions including the National Intelligence Service (NIS), the police and the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office. In 2019, proposed reforms of the public prosecutor’s office triggered a major political struggle. While prosecutorial reform will require greater and more politically strategic efforts by the president and his allies, the launch of the new Corruption Investigation Office in 2021 is a first step in curtailing the power of the prosecutor’s office.
Korea Herald. What Moon Jae-in pledged to do as president. May 10, 2017.
“Moon: Constitutional Amendment Needed for Decentralization.” KBS World, January 17, 2022.
“Remarks by President Moon Jae-in at 1st Central and Local Government Cooperation Meeting.” The Republic of Korea Cheong Wa Dae, January 13, 2022.
The government does not improve its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
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 still rarely connected with strategic thinking about changes in the institutional arrangements of governance.
Upon taking office, each of the two Plenković governments slightly changed the cabinet structure. In April 2017, the first 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. It remains to be seen whether the ambitious goals of the Mechanism for Recovery and Resilience, which emphasize a strong focus on reforms and investments that encourage green and digital transition, will drive the institutional reforms implemented by the second Plenković government in the 2022-2024 period.
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, stalled for years, resumed in fall 2019 and reform plans were again promoted. In addition to pursuing goals to improve the selection and promotion of personnel, and speed up procedures, four new deputy ministries have been established. The long-standing local government reform seems to be nearing adoption by the parliament.

The challenge of expanding strategic planning capacities shows some progress beyond that of the required training of professional personnel; most ministries have drafted a three-year strategic plan.
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 (65% in November 2021), he has initiated a transformation of Mexico in various policy fields, which he calls the “fourth transformation.” A central element of this shift has been the concentration of power within the presidency. The first half of President López Obrador’s term was characterized not by sustainable institutionalization, but rather by personalization and populist, anti-institutionalist approaches, with the judiciary, media and autonomous bodies coming under particular pressure.
There is no evidence that the new Costa government changed institutional arrangements significantly in such a way as to improve strategic capacity during the period under review. Moreover, the pressures of the pandemic made any such reform more difficult.
The center-right government has initiated some smaller institutional reforms. It has created the new position of a deputy prime minister for legislation and strategic planning and has set up a new Government Council for the European New Deal. Most importantly, it has transformed the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Informatization into a full-blown ministry, the Ministry of Investments, Regional Development and Informatization, with a view to improving the absorption of EU funds and strengthening regional development. However, the resulting improvements in the government’s strategic capacity have been limited.
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 Šarec government has kept the structure of ministries intact and had paid no 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 a large expert group on the initiative of the National Council. However, this stalled in 2020 following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. In July 2021, the Janša government added a new minister responsible for digital transformation, but – given the lack of support in parliament and the outbreak of coronavirus – paid little attention to institutional reform.
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
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. Due to the long period of austerity, which came to an end only in 2019, strategic capacities have not been strengthened. This became clear for all to see following the government’s steering problems during the pandemic. Experiments in participatory budgeting and local democracy may to some extent harness citizen knowledge and expertise, and serve as a countervailing power to local government bodies. A hesitantly more pro-EU policy mood may also result in some institutional reform over the mid-term.

But this is going to take a lot of effort and, probably, time. Although institutional arrangements are monitored regularly (for instance, by the Scientific Council of the Government on citizen self-reliance, the Council for Public Administration on local democracy and administrative effectiveness, annual reports by the national Council of State on politically salient issues, and regular reports on citizens’ perceptions of well-being by the Socio-Cultural Planning Agency), recommendations and plans often receive little follow-up due to a lack of political will. It has been plausibly argued that the weak link between critical self-monitoring and political action is due to a systematically biased self-image among the country’s leading politicians, civil servants and intellectuals: Every failure is disparaged as an “incident” or “accident” in a normally smoothly run, exemplary country. In the typically pragmatic and technocratic style of policymaking characteristic for the country since the 1990s, this leads to muddling through rather than reform and institutional change. Policymakers routinely ask: “How can we do things better?” instead of “Are we doing the right things?”
VPRO, 26 December 2021. Mathieu Segers: de voorbeeldrol die Nederland zich aanmeet, is heel vaak misplaatst

De Correspondent, Chavannes, 27 December 2020. De overheid werd een bedrijft mensen onverdiend wantrouwt. Alleen Kamer en kabinet kunnen die denkfout herstellen.
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.
Gözler, K. (2018). Mahalli İdareler Hukuku. Baskı, Ekin Kitabevi: Bursa.
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 political power: its majority in parliament, its 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 socioeconomic base, 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 municipalities (communes/gemeeten) 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 municipalities 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 to Walloons 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, this 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.

Former Prime Minister Orban reduced the number of deputy prime ministers and cut the number of ministers s from 27 to 18 by merging some portfolios. Under the most recent government led by Prime Minister Ciuca (a coalition of PNL, PSD and UDMR), 21 ministers and deputy ministers were sworn into cabinet. The dual crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse of coalition governments through 2020–2021 have prevented progress on additional institutional reforms, which are not high on the new government’s list of priorities in light of the continued COVID-19 crisis.
The government loses strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
From time to time, Prime Minister Orbán has reorganized the functioning 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. By creating the new Supervisory Authority for Regulated Activities (SARA), the Orbán government has tried to limit the strategic capacity of a possible opposition-led successor government.
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