Strategic Capacity


How much influence do strategic planning units and bodies have on government decision-making?

Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions, and they exercise strong influence on government decision-making.
Government policies have traditionally been consensus driven. This applies both to parliament, as most governments have been minority governments, and in relation to negotiations involving organizations and the political system, most notably in relation to labor market issues.

Major reforms in Denmark are usually prepared through committees or commissions established to produce reports outlining issues and options. In recent years, commissions have played an essential role in the policy formation process, including Strukturkommissionen (infrastructure commission), Velfærdskommissionen (welfare commission), Arbejdsmarkedskommissionen (labor market commission), Skattekommissionen (tax commission), Produktivitetskommissionen
(productivity commission) and Dagpengekommissionen (unemployment insurance commission).

The Ministry of Finance plays a central role in initiating and coordinating strategic planning. This role is most clearly seen in the formulation of overarching strategic policy plans (usually with a horizon of about 10 years), such as the government’s 2010, 2015, 2020 and, most recently, 2025 plans (Wanna et al 2017). A new plan is expected to be formulated in the near future. A primary focus of these plans has been to develop public expenditures and revenues so as to ensure that policy decisions are consistent in a medium- to long-run perspective.

In addition, it is quite common to appoint expert groups to prepare inputs for important policy discussions and reforms. The members can be experts, representatives of organizations or civil servants. The culture of professionalism in ministries has also improved.

Some reforms in the public sector – including healthcare, active labor market and social policies, and tax administration – have been criticized for being inadequately prepared. For example, tax authority reforms have been criticized for being excessively focused on cost savings, which results in less effective tax administration and a reduced ability to enforce tax compliance. The current government has allocated funds to tackle these problems. The government has also made claims to pursue decentralization despite the underlying tension between such decentralization and the overarching welfare state objective of ensuring that the population receive equal treatment.
Wanna, John, Lotte Jensen, and Jouke de Vries, eds. The reality of budgetary reform in OECD nations: Trajectories and consequences. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017.

Niels Ejersbo og Carsten Greve, Modernisering af den offentlige sektor. Copenhagen: Børsen, 2005.

Finance Ministry, Finanslovforslaget 2020.
(accessed 15 October 2019).

Nørgaard, Asbjørn Sonne, Poul Erik Mouritzen, and Jørgen Grønnegaard Christensen. De store kommissioner: Vise mænd, smagsdommere eller nyttige idioter. Syddansk Universitetsforlag, 2009.
Strategic planning has considerable influence on government decision-making in Finland. The strategic goals of the government program are recorded in specific government-strategy documents. These strategy documents cover a one-year period and include a plan for pursuing priority goals, a notice of intent for upcoming key decisions and indicators for evaluating government performance. The implementation of the government program is assessed by a report halfway through the cabinet’s tenure, which defines how strategic goals should be attained through the rest of the cabinet’s time in office. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) assists the prime minister and the government in their work and is responsible for the planning of social policy legislation that does not fall within the competence of any other ministry. The government often launches policy programs to ensure its key objectives are met. Meanwhile, the preparation and monitoring of programs is delegated to ministerial groups. In addition, the Committee for the Future deals with future-related matters. As a former entrepreneur, former Prime Minister Juha Sipilä gave the government program an even more strategic turn. For some of its policy objectives, the government utilized trial projects to assess reform impacts. The basic-income trial project, which was run with 2,000 participants nationwide in 2017 and 2018, was an example of this kind of new strategic evidence-based planning.

Finland did have a pre-existing crisis management system in place before the pandemic, but its ability to detect and monitor an incipient crisis through use of an effective early warning system, appropriate risk assessment mechanisms and relevant expertise was limited. In an address to the parliament in April 2020, Prime Minister Marin stated: “At the beginning of the year, we had no idea that the crisis would be so profound and serious. Although Finland has a high level of preparedness for different situations when compared to many other countries, we were also surprised by the epidemic and its social and economic effects” (Prime Minister’s Announcement 2020).
Kangas, Olli, Signe Jauhiainen, Miska Simanainen, Minna Ylikännö (eds.). The Basic Income Experiment in Finland 2017-2018. Preliminary Results. Reports and Memorandums of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 2019:9.

Prime Minister’s Announcement 2020. Corona Crisis Management. Accessed, 28.12. 2020.
Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Their influence on government decision-making is systematic but limited in issue scope or depth of impact.
Neither the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) nor the Privy Council Office (PCO) has an official strategic planning unit that is specifically dedicated to medium and longer-term scenarios. In 1997, Policy Horizons Canada was established under the PCO with a mandate to provide analysis and help the federal public service anticipate emerging policy challenges and opportunities. Its budget is small, however, and this unit has not reported through the PCO since 2007.

In practice, however, central agencies and particularly PCO and the Department of Finance have expert capacity dedicated to planning and priorities, both in policy agenda-setting and rollout. Budgets typically consider five-year horizons and various medium-term scenarios in setting the fiscal framework; planning initiatives are undertaken in lead-up to Speeches from the Throne; and larger initiatives such as innovation and skills are examples of efforts at more medium-term visioning. Given the authority and influence vested in these central agencies, the planning capacity of the government of Canada is as strong as that of other Western countries.

The current Trudeau government has also made ample use of special advisory groups to provide information and consultations on a number of policy areas (e.g., economic growth, cultural policy and issues relating to young people).
In December 2011, Latvia established a central government planning unit, the Cross-Sectoral Coordination Centre (Pārresoru koordinācijas centrs, PKC). The PKC’s mandate was to develop a long-term strategic approach to public policymaking, while also monitoring decision-making to ensure that public policies are effective. The PKC also monitors ministries’ progress toward meeting the government’s stated goals, as outlined in the government declaration.

As the institution responsible for the policy-planning process, the PKC ensures standardized procedures for submission of policy documents to the cabinet, including adherence to long-term and medium-term outcome indicators and the inclusion of budgetary information for additional funding within the fiscal space determined by the Ministry of Finance. It also evaluates the strategic robustness of ministry submissions to the annual three-year budget process. To strengthen the mandate of the government in key structural reforms, it established and serves as the secretariat of the National Development Council that advises the prime minister on issues such as key framework policies for the next seven-year planning period. The PKC also coordinates meetings with ministry-level policy planners in order to ensure a feedback loop for any new initiatives involving strategic planning. This group, for example, collectively approved Latvia’s approach to mainstreaming the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals within the country’s policymaking process, thus ensuring that the policy system remains systematic and coherent.

To date, the PKC has produced two National Development Plans, and has screened subsequent sectoral planning documents to ensure adherence to the plans and the Latvia 2030 framework. It contributes to policy debates on a range of cross-sectoral issues specified by the prime minister or the cabinet, including demographics and income disparities. The PKC reviews all proposals discussed by the cabinet and provides weekly briefings for the prime minister on substantive issues scheduled for discussion by the cabinet.

Despite the PKC’s core role and the recent reduction in ministries’ departmental units and staff numbers, the planning system remains deconcentrated. The NDP identifies the achievable outcomes and main measures mandated by the inclusive and participatory multi-stakeholder process. However, it is up to the ministries to make sector-level plans within the framework and beyond, including at the EU level.
1. The Cross-Sectoral Coordination Centre, Information Available at (in Latvian):, Last accessed: 10.01.2022.

2. The Cross-Sectoral Coordination Centre (2018) Annual Report:2018, Available at:, Last accessed: 10.01.2022.

3. Official Publisher of the Republic of Latvia (Latvijas Vēstnesis) (2019) Changes in the governance of State Owned Enterprises: Changes in 2020, Last accessed: 10.01.2022.

4. Development Planning System Law (2014) Available at:, Last accessed: 04.01.2022.

5. Rules for Development and Impact Assessment of Development Planning Documents (2014) Available (in Latvian):, Last accessed: 10.01.2022.
Lithuania’s strategic-planning system was introduced in 2000 and has been updated several times since. At the central level of government, the planning system involves all stages (planning, monitoring and evaluation) of managing strategic and operational performance. The main strategic documents include the long-term Lithuania 2030 strategy and the medium-term National Progress Program, which is in turn linked to short-term strategic-performance plans and budget programs. The planning system in general is well-institutionalized; its functioning is supported by a network of strategic-planning units within each ministry and a governmental Strategic Committee that was reintroduced in 2013. However, the strategic-planning system suffers from unnecessary complexity. About 250 strategic documents exist, while strategic action plans include 1,800 monitoring indicators. The 2016 – 2020 government developed guidelines and an action plan for restructuring the strategic-planning and budget-formulation system to focus more on results and ensure fiscal sustainability. A new draft law on strategic management is intended to regulate the results-oriented strategic-management system. Implementation of this legislation would reduce the number of strategic-planning documents from 290 to 100; however, many types of strategic-planning documents would remain. In 2020 the Act of Strategic Planning was adopted with the aim of reducing the overall number of strategic documents and goals, and creating a more efficient planning and monitoring system. Furthermore, in 2021 a new strategic-management methodology was approved by the government.

A State Progress Council composed of politicians, public and civil servants, academics, business leaders, and other representatives of Lithuanian society was established to help design the Lithuania 2030 strategy and monitor its implementation. The Council’s composition was updated after the 2012 to 2016 government came to office and meetings were held on a regular basis until 2016. Although the 2016 to 2020 government was initially reluctant to employ this governance arrangement, after almost two years of putting Council activities on hold it decided to update its composition. The Šimonytė government that came to power in 2020 has promised to prepare a long-term strategy called “Lithuania 2050” by the end of 2023. In early 2022, the government approved new members for the State Progress Council, and it started its work on preparing this strategy.

More generally, although these strategic and advisory bodies take a long-term perspective and offer viable policy solutions, their influence on governmental decision-making varies by policy issue. There is a certain gap between the long-term policy aims contained in various strategic documents and both the outcomes of concrete legislative decisions and the actual practices of individual public sector organizations, especially during the times of crisis. The persistent problems in properly applying impact assessments in the legislative process to a large extent explain this gap. In addition, politically important decisions are sometimes made without due consideration of strategic priorities and performance-monitoring, with strategic-planning documents and performance reports often playing little role in daily decision-making processes or the activities of street-level bureaucrats.
New Zealand
New Zealand has unique constitutional arrangements resulting in a significant concentration of power in the cabinet and a highly cohesive system of cabinet government. The core executive in New Zealand is organized according to new public-management approaches and methods. Most importantly, contracts are negotiated between ministers and chief executives. With the large number of government departments and ministers (26, with a further three undersecretaries), most of whom are responsible for several portfolios, taking a whole-of-government approach to policy development can be complex and time-consuming. In addition to this, since 1996, coalition governments and support party arrangements have meant that cabinet government, while still an essential aspect of the system, includes a multiparty dimension that can disrupt collective ministerial responsibility.

Recent governments have reacted to concerns about fragmentation by recentralizing the steering capacity of the core executive. The most important government departments involved in strategic planning and policy formation are the central agencies of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), the State Services Commission (SSC) and the Treasury. The DPMC consists of six units: the Cabinet Office, Government House, the Policy Advisory Group, the National Assessments Bureau, the Domestic and External Security Group, and the Corporate Services Unit.

All contracts (performance agreements and departmental statements of intent) support a cooperative and whole-of-government policy approach, though evaluation of the performance assessment of chief executives has a strong focus on departmental achievements. The prime minister can draw on only moderate strategic-planning capacity (in the form of the Policy Advisory Group) vis-à-vis ministers. Ad hoc groups, often including some outside expertise, are increasingly used to complement government agencies’ policy-advisory function. Moreover, the prime minister has access to the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Adviser (PMCSA), whose role is to provide advice regarding how science can inform good decision-making in New Zealand. There is also a network of chief science advisers attached to a range of government departments, and a Chief Science Adviser Forum. These sources of science-based advice for the government have been important in highlighting evidence from the scientific and research community relating to key policy challenges, but the government is not required to follow such advice.
Department of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet (DPMC). Annual Report 2018.

Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Adviser (PMSCA)
The idea of reinforcing long-term thinking and smarter policymaking has drawn increasing political attention in Spain in recent years. Several key areas including economic policy (structural reforms), climate change, security and external action, are addressed through strategic documents that receive annual evaluations. Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions.

The lack of experience in forming coalition governments has had an impact on the effectiveness and coherence of policy formulation, and has led to coordination problems among ministries since 2020. However, the coalition agreement included several strategic plans. Moreover, the RRP addresses the specific challenges the country is facing and the interests of future generations. For long-term planning, the Ministry of the Presidency created a National Foresight and Strategy Office in 2020, following other similar precedents in previous governments. In 2021, the office presented its proposals for a long-term national strategy that would look toward 2050. However, this office is not fully integrated in the general process of executive policymaking, and its policy recommendations do not effectively condition the departments’ initiatives. Policy advice is very fragmented among ministries.

Royal Decree 286/2017 of 24 March regulates the government’s Annual Regulatory Plan and the Annual Regulatory Assessment Report. The measure also created the Regulatory Planning and Assessment Council. Since 2018, the Council of Ministers has approved a regulatory plan at the beginning of each calendar year. The plan for 2022 was approved on 11 January 2022.
Royal Decree 286/2017 of 24 March

Oficina Nacional de Prospectiva y Estrategia del Gobierno de España (2021), España 2050,
The strategic capacity of the government has been enhanced over the past few years. Much of that capacity is found in the finance ministry where most of the long-term planning takes place. The main role of the Prime Minister’s Office is not so much long-term planning but more coordination within government.

In addition to these planning efforts in the government departments, the agencies are also engaged in planning. They do not operate in close proximity to the departments, however. The exception to this pattern is when a department asks one of its agencies to look into a particular issue and to prepare advice on possible policy initiatives. The center-right government (2006 – 2014) invested considerable energy in increasing coordination among government departments and improving executive agency steering. The Social Democratic-Green minority governments (2014 until summer 2021) have not made any sustained efforts in this respect.

Strategic policy planning in Sweden is performed using commissions of inquiry. Most of these commissions are ad hoc, appointed by the parliament, and their membership tends to reflect the parties with seats in the parliament. Recently, public servants have come to take on a larger role on these commissions. Some commissions are conducted by a single person, a high-ranking nonelected official. The authors of commission reports hold regular meetings and engage in ongoing negotiations with the politicians who ordered the investigation. In practice, any conflicts regarding the contents of the report are teased out during that time. Petersson (2016) notes that commissions of inquiry have increasingly become less independent, especially with the assignment of one special investigator with support staff as opposed to a team of investigators (see also Dahlström, Lundberg and Pronin, 2019; Petridou and Sparf, 2017).
Dahlström, Carl, Erik Lundberg and Kira Pronin. 2019. “Det Statliga Kommittéväsendets Förändring 1990-2016.” SNS Analys Rapport nr 59. (Stockholm: SNS).

Petersson, Olof. 2016. “Rational Politics: Commissions of Inquiry and the Referral System in Sweden.” In Jon Pierre (ed.). “The Oxford Handbook of Swedish Politics.” 650-662. Oxford University Press.

Petridou, Evangelia and Jörgen Sparf. 2017. “For Safety’s Sake: the Strategies of Institutional Entrepreneurs and Bureaucratic Reforms in Swedish Crisis Management, 2001–2009.” Policy and Society, 36(4), 556-574.
The U.S. government has a number of units that analyze policy issues and make long-term projections as part of the assessment of current options. The Executive Office of the President has multiple staffs and agencies tasked with analyzing various policy issues. On the legislative side, the Congressional Budget Office analyzes the 10-year fiscal impact of all bills with budget implications. Expertise about long-term considerations is available in abundance, in the agencies, Congress and the White House.

In most areas of government and policy, President Trump had virtually no interest in long-range planning, professional expertise or even organized, careful deliberation. The advent of the Biden administration led to a return to more traditional policymaking within the White House. Professional expertise has once again taken front stage and economists are playing a central role in decision-making. The Biden Administration is looking to capitalize on the strategic planning process required for agencies to advance their goals. Strategic plans with goals and performance measures for fiscal years 2022 through 2026 are due from agencies in February 2022. Agencies are also required by the Office of Management and Budget to align their goals with the Biden Administration’s top priorities like equity, pandemic response, recovery and climate.
Probably the most important government body for encouraging long-term strategic policy development is the Productivity Commission, which notionally provides advice to government on microeconomic policy, but which increasingly is asked to provide advice in other policy areas. The Productivity Commission conducts reviews and inquiries as directed by government, and also independently produces research reports. All advice and reports are released publicly in a timely fashion.

Within the federal public service, extensive use is made of committees to undertake strategic planning, and the activities of these committees generally peak immediately before and after the transition to a new government, and in the pre-budget period. The public service also maintains a single department, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, with the aim of coordinating and directing strategic planning across the government as a whole.

The geopolitical challenge Australia is confronted with has resulted in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet taking a more active role.

Productivity Commission:
As in many other European democracies, Austrian governments tend to be coalitions, as usually no single party manages to secure an absolute majority in parliamentary elections. In terms of strategic capacity, this has both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, executive responsibility is blurred, as the presence of too many veto players prevents the development of consistent strategic capacity. On the other, governing coalitions are conducive to more inclusive government. Political decision-making in Austria is still characterized by a tendency to prefer a maximum of consensus, even at the price of postponing necessary decisions and shying away from taboos identified with the interests of special groups (e.g., public service unions or organized agrarian interests). Inter- and intra-party veto players have significant influence and tend to undermine strategic capacity.

Strategic-planning units and bodies consisting of public officials exist within the individual ministries. The Federal Chancellery can be considered the principal strategic-planning unit, as it is responsible for coordinating the government’s various activities. However, it lacks the specialized personnel that would enable it to work as a comprehensive strategy unit and has no power to give instructions to other ministries.

The ÖVP-FPÖ coalition government (2017–2019) established secretary-generals above the traditional structures within departments and across all departments in an attempt to improve the government’s strategic capacity. This regime has been continued under the ÖVP-Green government (since 2020), despite some initial concerns voiced by Green ministers. A secretary-general is only answerable to the minister. The intention is to give the respective minister (through the secretary-general) direct control over the department. A recent report by the Austrian Federal Audit Office found that the suggested “streamlining effects” on internal decision-making (as well as the suggested cost reduction for other departmental personnel) remained notably moderate, and in some cases even added to contradictory orders and counter-productive processes within departments.

As in most other countries with complex governmental structures (including coalition governments and federalism), such as Germany and Switzerland, Austria’s overall performance in the coronavirus pandemic was taken by observers as a sign of structural weakness at the level of the government’s strategic steering capacity. It has to be noted, however, that much of this “observed” structural weakness arises out of the federal division of powers within Austria and cannot be considered a direct effect of weak government decision-making at the national level.
Each minister (or secretary of state) works closely with a team of collaborators in each ministerial cabinet. Each cabinet is usually large, with as many as 30 to 40 senior staff and experts. Meetings take place often, and the team designs policies in line both with the minister’s objectives and the government agreement. The minister and the advisory team are then responsible for drafting bill projects which are then submitted to the government in weekly meetings.

In terms of long-term planning, the knowledge accumulated by a minister’s collaborators can be lost at the end of a legislative period, as the ministerial team changes with the minister. Moreover, the frequency of staff rotation is generally high. In contrast, public administration is run by civil servants with longer tenures of office, but these groups do not generally take part in strategic ministerial decisions. Long-term planning (beyond a legislative term) is therefore made difficult. The main rationale for relying on the minister’s team instead of civil servants is that the former are the minister’s (and the party’s) close aides and tend to be more flexible in terms of working hours and availability for emergency situations.

The federal Planning Bureau (Bureau du Plan/Planbureau) does play a role in providing longer strategic planning options, but in general it is the ministerial cabinets that are the main movers of legislative efforts.
The president has the ability to ask for and ensure strategic planning, whether through formal or informal channels. Line ministries, most notably the Ministry of Finance, and the president’s advisory ministry (Secretaría General de la Presidencia, Segpres), have considerable influence in strategic planning processes. Meetings between strategic planning staff and the head of government are held frequently. However, no long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions is necessarily presented – these are either limited in scope or depth of impact depending on the topic. Strategic planning, policy-planning and regulatory reforms, budget planning, and ex ante evaluation of government policies and public-investment programs are carried out by specialist units and departments inside the various ministries. While there is no explicit multi-year budget planning process in place in Chile, this takes place implicitly due to the fiscal rule that (by law) links overall government expenditure to forward-looking estimates of long-term government revenue, based on growth trends and copper-price projections. These forecasts are provided in a transparent way by specialist budgetary commissions comprised of academic and private sector experts (mostly professional economists).
There is some evidence that Irish policymakers improved their strategic-planning capacity since the period in the immediate aftermath of the crisis. The annual reports on successive government programs detail a more coherent strategic approach to policymaking and increased use of advisory bodies. The government has relied heavily on experts over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic to inform policymaking and to justify decisions, especially the chief medical officer and members of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Colfer, 2021).

However, independent advice is not always followed. Popular pressures for increased spending and tax reductions continue to influence government decisions regarding the annual national budget and often reflect the proximity of a general election. Prior to the pandemic, the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, and the Economic and Social Research Institute urged the government to devote more of the revenue gains arising from economic improvements to reducing the budget deficit quicker, at the expense of lower taxes and increased spending. However, the imposition of limits on mortgage lending, intended to moderate the rise in home prices following the experiences of the housing crash, is a welcome example of unpopular but prudent strategic thinking.

While coalition agreements have been increasingly monitored, especially since the innovations of the 1992 – 1997 coalition government, concerning the much greater use of special advisers and program managers, more recently governments have published annual monitoring reports on the coalition programs. These tend to be very detailed annual reports, some much longer than the original coalition agreement. The 2020 Programme for Government: Our Shared Future document runs to 128 pages with no review published yet within the life of this government (Gov, 2020)
Colfer, B. (2020) Herd‐immunity across intangible borders: Public policy responses to COVID‐19 in Ireland and the UK, European Policy Analysis, 06(02) pp 203-225,;

Gov (2020) Programme for Government: Our Shared Future, Department of the Taoiseach, 27 October, available at:
The concept of strategic planning is not particularly developed in Italian governmental and administrative culture. This is in part due to the fact that governments have been predominantly preoccupied with coalition problems and that the administration is still very much guided by a legalistic culture. Nevertheless, some progress has been made under recent governments. Recent government programs have been more detailed, and have become significant instruments for organizing and planning government activity. Within the government office (called the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, or Presidenza del Consiglio), a special department guided by a minister without portfolio has been created to oversee the implementation of this program. This department produces regular reports on the program’s implementation status.

The financial aspect of strategic planning has historically been somewhat more developed, as the Treasury has to implement rigorous budgetary stability goals and works within a triennial perspective.

The configuration of the first two cabinets of the 2018–2023 legislature was based on rather incoherent majorities (the Five Star Movement and the Northern League for the first one, and the Five Star Movement and Democratic Party for the second) and with a prime minister who wielded little political clout compared to the coalition party leaders. This left little space for policy-focused strategic planning. Since the beginning of 2020, the COVID-19 emergency has increasingly distracted the second Conte government from strategic planning.

The Draghi government – thanks to the strong personality and authority of the prime minister, and under the pressure of the implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) – has significantly improved the mechanisms of strategic planning. A strategic and coordinating unit (Cabina di Regia) under the Presidency of the Council of Ministers has gained a crucial role in the monitoring and driving of government actions linked to the PNRR. At the same time, however, it is still not sufficiently clear whether the strong centralization of PNRR guidance will be successful not only in the design (as it has been), but also in the implementation of the PNRR.
Each government ministry has a director and unit responsible for strategy and planning. In 2015, a new unit focused on information and the implementation of standards was introduced in the office of the prime minister to facilitate coordination between various stakeholders when implementing projects. These are strongest in the Ministry of Finance, the Malta Planning Authority, the Malta Transport Authority, the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs, and the Education Ministry. The influence of strategic planning units over fiscal and education policy has increased. A Budget Implementation unit also monitors the implementation of policies with relevance to the budget. In 2020, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) and the Malta Police Force have been overhauled. A special cabinet committee was set up to review constitutional reform. However, the number of strategic planning commissions has mushroomed in recent years. The coronavirus pandemic has played an important part in this development. Overall Malta, was among the countries that handled the pandemic best, maintaining the economy, employment and health security. This success was due to many of the reforms previously carried in the public service.

Within ministries, the permanent secretary is responsible for developing strategy, including identifying key performance indicators, and determining timeline and budgets. Strategic plans normally run over three-, four- or five-year cycles and are often developed in the course of consultation with internal and external stakeholders. Internationally recognized benchmarking methodologies are used to track progress. Ministries increasingly employ consultants to produce reports on current policy issues, a practice that may be regarded as forward planning. The Management Efficiency Unit coordinates separate ministry plans and the Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA), which reviews government IT requirements, also assists. Usually when a policy is to be reformed or updated a strategic plan is released for consultation. It has been proposed that the annual government budget be instead shifted to a multi-year timeframe to ensure a greater degree of continuity and long-term planning. However, the performance audit by the Audit Office regarding the Vitals global healthcare deal clearly indicates the absence of strategic planning units in government decision-making. The audit states, “The NAO was unable to audit the process of negotiations held between government and the VGH as information made available was severely limited. As a result, it was not possible for this Office to understand how key changes to the concession came about, the precise role played by those involved in negotiations and whether critical changes were appropriately endorsed.” The audit further states, “Records of meetings held by the Steering Committee were provided to the NAO, facilitating this Office’s visibility over the strategic management of the project. However, of note to this Office were the concerns expressed by the PS Ministry for Health (MFH) (referred to as the PS MEH-Health in the preceding paragraph) regarding his involvement with the Steering Committee. Although minutes retained indicated his attendance at a few meetings, the PS MFH asserted otherwise, claiming that he was only invited once, expressed reservations regarding the project that were not captured in the minutes and was subsequently not invited to any other Steering Committee meeting.”
Caleja Ragonesi I., Maltese Presidency aims to make the ordinary extraordinary. Europe’s Word January 2017
Strategic Plan 2017-2020 Academy for disciplined forces Malta
Mobile Government Strategy 2017-2018ffddddf
Ufficcju tal – prim Ministru, Rapport Annwali 2020
Dec 2021 – An audit of matters relating to the concession awarded to Vitals Global Healthcare by Government Part 2 | A review of the contractual framework – download abridged – download
Significant strategic planning takes place in the course of governmental decision-making. The Ministry of Finance is responsible for long-term planning, and also presents views during the annual budget cycle on how best to cope with long-term economic challenges and public sector financing.

The standard procedure for major decisions and reforms entails the following steps: First, the government appoints an ad hoc committee tasked with delivering a detailed report, a green paper, on a particular issue. Some of these committees are composed exclusively of experts, while others may have a broader membership that includes politicians and representatives of unions, business confederations and other non-governmental organizations. Since the 1970s, the number of academics in these committees has increased significantly, while the total number of committees appointed per year has decreased. The next step is to circulate the report to interested parties with an invitation to comment on analysis and policy proposals. Normally, a period of three months for comments is recommended, and six weeks is the minimum period. Third, after comments have been received will the government prepare a proposal for parliament, sometimes in the form of a parliamentary bill, but occasionally only as an initial white paper. Governments deviate from this procedure only in cases of emergency, and any attempt to circumvent it would lead to public criticism.

There is an established procedure for the approval of the annual budget. Activity starts a year in advance, when the government holds three conferences on the budget proposal. The finance minister presents an initial proposal to parliament in the first week of October. A parliamentary committee plays an active role in the budget process, making concrete proposals for the distribution of resources. This proposal becomes the basis of parliamentary discussion. After the parliament approves a proposal for the allocation of resources, it becomes binding for subsequent, more detailed discussions that take place in various parliamentary committees. By December 15, this work is concluded and the final budget is approved by (majority in) the parliament.
South Korea
Strategic planning remains an important priority in South Korean governance. Strategic priorities are set by the powerful presidential office, although the fact that the president only serves a single five-year term makes it difficult to plan beyond a single electoral cycle. President Moon launched his five-year vision and plan (“100 Policy Tasks: A Nation of the People, A Just Republic of Korea”) in September 2017. This was supplemented and reinforced in December 2019 by the longer-term “2045 Vision for an Innovative, Inclusive Nation.” To help him develop implement these plans, President Moon relied on the Presidential Commission on Policy Planning, including a policy unit comprised of the Future Policy Research Center (responsible for research and support on national mid- to long-term policies) and the State Affairs Tasks Support Group (provides respective research and support). In total around 100 committee members, mostly professors or other experts, work in one of the six subdivisions addressing the issues of people’s sovereignty, national growth, inclusive society, sustainability, decentralization, and peace and prosperity. In addition, the two special committees on income-led growth and the New Southern Policy help to identify key policies that the government will pursue, and help develop medium- and long-term plans to carry out the policies.
While managing the COVID-19 pandemic overshadowed other policy objectives for most of 2020, the Moon administration took the opportunity of developing a COVID-19 response and recovery plan to review and reinvigorate his administration’s strategic plan. The administration launched the Korean New Deal in 2020 and updated it in 2021. The New Deal – with its three pillars Digital, Green, Human – is consistent with the five-year strategy. The New Deal incorporates and reinvigorates key policy priorities such as fostering a more inclusive, innovative and green economy; improving social protections; and implementing balanced regional development. Moreover, the New Deal seems to strike an appropriate balance between short-to-medium-term response and recovery and long-term transformation.
국정기획자문위 6개 분과 34人 ‘정책통 라인업’ (‘Policy Management Lineup’ of 34 members in six subdivisions of the State Affairs Planning Advisory Committee). Maeil Business Newspaper. May 19, 2017. Policy Roadmap of the Moon Jae-in Administration. July 19, 2017. President Moon Unveils Five-year Policy Agenda. July 19, 2017. President Launches Advisory Committee on State Affairs. May 22, 2017.
“Korean New Deal for the Post-COVID-19 Era.” UNDP Seoul Policy Centre for Knowledge Exchange Through SDG Partnerships, September 10, 2020.
Korea Ministry of Economy and Finance. “Government Announces Korean New Deal 2.0,” July 14, 2021.
대통령직속 정책기획위원회 (Presidential Commission on Policy Planning)
The Dutch national government is run at the cabinet level as an exercise in political risk management by a smart “fixer” (e.g., Prime Minister Rutte), who is well known for his aversion to strategic vision. The political inevitability of multiparty coalition governments with narrow parliamentary majorities almost dictates a monistic relationship between parliament and executive. Therefore, important decisions are taken during Monday morning meetings between the prime minister and his core cabinet and the leaders of (four) coalition parties. Sectoral ministers outside the core lend support in preparing decisions, but play a larger role in departmental implementation planning. In cases where political support is difficult and the problematic is societally and technically complex, the Rutte government used another typical Dutch coalition tactic: “poldering” through extensive societal consultation with numerous business and civil society associations (also see “Societal Consultation”) This “double compromise” nature of Dutch politics is hardly conducive to policymaking through well-thought-out long-term strategy.

As a kind of countervailing factor, the Dutch government has four strategic-planning units: the Scientific Council for Government Policy (Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regereingsbeleid, WRR), the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy (Centraal Plan Bureau, CPB), the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (Sociaal Cultureel Planbureau, SCP) and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Bureau (Planbureau voor de Leefbaarheid, PBL). All of these are formally part of a ministry, but their statutes guarantee them independent advisory functions. Yet, their close ties to government departments means they are frequently used to model the short- and mid-term effects of proposed policy proposals. The CPB and PBL in particular are “obligatory passage points” in the financial-economic feasibility testing that has dominated neoliberal austerity strategies for over a decade. Even parliament imposed upon itself the rule that every new policy proposal had to fit within given financial constraints. This resulted, on one hand, in the huge financial reserves that allowed the government to provide generous support to firms during the coronavirus pandemic; on the other hand, for a long time, it slowed down the shift away from neoliberalism and effectively choked serious policy initiatives and investment in areas such as education and the greening of the economy.

It was this political climate that in 2019-2021 led to political demonstrations by farmers, construction workers, teachers, students and healthcare workers on a scale not seen for decades. Another long-term negative impact of the neoliberal political mood has been knowledge “leakage,” if not destruction, in the departmental structure and in the civil service. In the departmental structure, the political will to reduce the cabinet to as few members as possible resulted in the abolition of the Department for Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment – policy domains where huge problems popped up during Rutte III. The recruitment and training of civil servants focused much more on procedural matters, political communication skills and damage control rather than innovative thinking in terms of the environment, climate change, the sustainability transition strategy, or the skills needed for a rapidly changing economy and society. Also hampering matters was the fact that the system for recruiting top-level civil servants is not linked to strategic government goals, but rather to implementing a carousel of interorganizational mobility with fixed term limits (the average departmental top-level civil servant occupies his/her position for only about four years before moving on to another position, mostly in another department.)

Long-term steering capacity has traditionally been strong in the areas of water management and the management of care – that is, in ensuring the maximum opportunity for good care for every eligible citizen, for an acceptable cost. Planning units jointly advocated a coordinated long-term exit strategy for the coronavirus crisis and the development of pandemic preparedness for a next public health crisis; and they have released a flurry of new policy proposals, although their data and policy recommendations, in the age of science skepticism, have been attacked by the political parties that normally rely on them for political debate and deliberation. These proposals have addressed the areas of pensions, population growth, most aspects of climate change (the Urgenda verdict, the new nitrogen-emissions rule, biodiversity in the Dutch natural environment), the future of Dutch agriculture, traffic infrastructure and mobility, (social) housing, the future of care as a social issue, the role of money and financial regulation, and labor market regulatory reforms, digitalization and the use of algorithms by government, and for the first time in many years, long-term planning on defense issues.

Many of the issues mentioned in these long-term strategic explorations and scenarios appear to have found their way into the new coalition agreement of December 2021. Yet the agreement reads more like a wish-list expressing the need to start making serious policies on long overdue problems than a coherent strategy for the future. Moreover, responding to the political mood and desire to conduct government in a more dualist way, and to have more steering flexibility and space for political debate and negotiations with opposition parties, the agreement for the first time in recent history drops the routine practice of thorough financial feasibility testing of coalition agreement proposals.
Joop van den Berg, Schrammen maar geen wonden Premier Mark Rutte en de grenzen van de individualisering, in Montesqieu Instituut, 2021. ‘Niet stoffig, toch?’ Terugblik op het kabinet Rutte III. Den Haag, 13-27

R. Hoppe, 2014. Patterns of science/policy interaction in The Netherlands, in P. Scholten & F. van Nispen, Policy Analysis in the Netherlands, Policy Press, Bristol (ISBN 9781447313335)

CPB, CBS, SCP, PBL, Verkenning en Monitor Brede Welvaart (

WRR, News, WRR and KNAW: government must anticipate different coronavirus scenarios 16-11-2021

Haagse Beek, Weggeman en Spaan, 15 June 2021. Hoe de carrousel van de ABD zorgt voor kennisvernietiging bij de overheid

Universiteit Utrecht, Nieuws, 15 January 2021. Algemene Bestuursdienst (ABD) moet zichtbaarder en strategischer worden

DRIFT en NSOB, Bode et al., October 22, 2020. Sturing in transities. Een raamwerk voor strategiebepaling.

WRR rapport no. 105. 11 November 2021. Opgave AI. De nieuwe systeemtechnologie.

Clingendaal, Netherlands Institute of International Relations, DECEMBER 2020. Hoe moet de Nederlandse defensie er in de toekomst uitzien? Het perpetuum mobile van uitstel.
The supporting structures of government in Estonia are mainly located in the line ministries. The Government Office (GO) includes the Strategy Unit, which supports and coordinates the drafting of strategic development plans and government action plans, and monitors the implementation of these policy documents. It has increased in staff size in recent years (from nine in 2015 to 16 in 2021) and has a central role in coordinating the national strategy, Estonia 2035.

The national strategy is closely related to the process of the state budget strategy. Meetings of the prime minister and ministers take place every year, where the achievement of the strategic goals of Estonia 2035 and any necessary changes are discussed. Prior to the state budget strategy meetings, the strategy director of the GO provides an overview of the state of implementation of Estonia 2035 at a meeting of the cabinet of ministers, highlighting possible bottlenecks in the implementation of the strategy. Although the administrative process of strategic planning is well established, members of parliament from various parties remain skeptical about the real effect of the Estonia 2035 plan (Riigikogu Toimetised 2020). In addition to the Strategy Unit, there is also the Prime Minister’s Bureau, which is comprised of experts in various policy areas who advise the prime minister. Different from the Strategy Unit, this body is mostly linked to the prime minister’s political party and its members change with each new prime minister.

In 2017, the Foresight Center (FC) was established by the parliament to carry out long-term social and economic analyses, and draft development scenarios. The center consults parliamentary committees, but has only an implicit connection to the executive. The FC has implemented several policy analyses (e.g., examining the future of the tax system, healthcare and long-term care, the sustainability of the pension system, and mobility and transport scenarios), but no policy reforms have so far been initiated on the basis of these analyses. In 2021–2022, the FC staff size and budget was reduced.
Riigikogu Toimetised 2020, vol 4.
Since the 2013 coalition agreement, German governments have strengthened strategic planning as a cross-sectoral topic for ministries (Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik 2021). In the last legislative term 2017-2021, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) acted as coordinator in the context of its Foresight (Vorausschau) instrument. A mid-term conference of this initiative collected contributions from various ministries that have increasingly devoted resources to strategic foresight processes over the past ten years. As a result, efforts to consider long-term trends have increased. The Chancellery also now features a strategic foresight group tasked with long-term planning issues. According to experts, this increase in foresight analyses is having an impact on government policies (Bovenschulte et al. 2021).

In the new government’s coalition agreement, strategic foresight is not explicitly mentioned. However, there is an emphasis on forward-looking behavior in various policies (Koalitionsvertrag 2021), though it remains unclear whether this will result in strengthened foresight analysis on the part of government with greater impact on actual policy formulation.
Bovenschulte, Marc, Simone Ehrenberg-Silies, Kerstin Goluchowicz, Christoph Bogenstahl (2021): Regierungs-Foresight - Stand und Perspektiven, Working Paper des Instituts für Innovation und Technik in der VDI/VDE-IT, Nr. 59.

Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik (2021): Neue Bundesregierung: Was tut sich bei der Strategischen Vorausschau?, 20. Dezember 2021. (accessed: 15 January 2022).

Koalitionsvertrag (2021): Mehr Fortschritt wagen, Bündnis für Freiheit, Gerechtigkeit und Nachhaltigkeit, Koalitionsvertrag zwischen SPD, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen und FDP.
Strategic planning has long proved difficult for the central government in Athens thanks in large part to the archipelago-like character of governance involving conflicting political interests, clientelism and a highly formalistic administrative culture that fosters segmentation. Weak horizontal coordination within and among ministries, government agencies and state-owned companies used to make matters worse.

Strategic planning took precedence after the change of government in 2019. The new government passed a new law aiming to reorganize the government and the upper echelons of the central public administration. The law strengthened the core of the government by reorganizing the Prime Minister’s Office, which became the Presidency of Government. The reorganized prime minister’s office included strategic planning and programming units. It also assumed new tasks such as coordination of government policy across ministries and annual legislative planning. That office works side by side with two government ministers without portfolio, which assist the prime minister with supervising the daily functioning of government and long-term policy cycles. Compared to the past, in 2020–2021, strategic planning has vastly improved.
The new law on strategic planning was 4622/2019.
Τhe website of the Greek prime minister is
Strategic planning units are located under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), and include the National Economic Council, the National Security Council (NSC) and the Policy Planning Department. Strategic planning and implementation for major issues in Israel are very centralized under the PMO. A recent example is the national handling of the COVID-19 crisis by the NSC instead of the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), the designated crisis preparedness and response coordination authority.

In general, the most prominent step taken by the PMO in terms of efforts to foster strategic planning has been the annual publication of the Governmental Plan Book. The book offers a review of the Israeli government’s strategic planning units. Since 2019, the PMO has described its updated version of the book as the continuation of the government’s efforts to translate government policy into measurable and comparable goals across all policy fields and government offices.
“A guide for government planning,” The department for policy planning, September 2010 (Hebrew)

Arlozorov, Merav, “Serious, Ambitious, and Improving: Some Good Words on Netanyahu’s Government,” The Marker, 5.3.2017,

Cross-Sector round Table, Ministry of Education, 2018 (Hebrew),

The Government ICT Authority 2019-2021 Strategic Plan, 2019, (Hebrew):

“Policy departments – auxiliary tool for navigation,” the Reut institute 11.6.2008.
Policy Planning round tables, PMO office, June 2016 (Hebrew), (Hebrew)

Round Tables: why did we stop them?, Tuvanot (Insight), 2019,

Round Tables in the PMO, Sheatufim, 2019
The central-government reform of the Koizumi government in 2001 strengthened the role of lead institutions considerably. The unit officially in charge of “policy-planning and comprehensive policy coordination on crucial and specific issues in the cabinet” is the Cabinet Office (Naikaku-fu), which assists the prime minister and his cabinet. It is supported by a well-staffed Cabinet Secretariat (Naikaku-kanbō). The Cabinet Office also coordinates a number of policy councils including the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy. While there is a certain amount of overlap between councils concerning strategic issues, the councils have at least contributed to informing executive and public discourses. Whereas individual line ministries have strategic-planning units staffed with mid-ranking officials, their actual influence on long-term planning seems to be limited compared to the clout of bureau chiefs and more senior officials such as administrative vice-ministers. Policy-planning units tend to have very few staff members.

Prime Minister Abe’s (2012-2020) reliance on the same chief cabinet secretary since 2012 greatly contributed to strengthening the role of the Cabinet Office as a strategic-planning unit, as it came to dominate fields such as foreign policy. However, the power rests with the leading politicians rather than the bureaucrats involved.
Harutaka Takenaka, Institutional Foundation for the Abe Government’s Political Power, Japan Foreign Policy Forum, No. 49, October 2018,

Dmitry Filippov, How Shinzo Abe Is Changing Japan’s Foreign Policy Apparatus, The Diplomat, 13 December 2018,
The Mexican president is required by law to produce a strategic plan in his first year in office. At a lower level, there are quite a few planning units within the Mexican government, though they do not all have decisive input in the policymaking process. Longer-term, Mexico has committed itself to the SDGs and created a specialized technical committee involving 25 federal agencies, which will collect the statistical information required to monitor progress.

President López Obrador has an extraordinarily high level of legitimacy. Elected with the support of more than 53% of the Mexican voting population, with a majority in Congress and high approval rates (65% in November 2021), he has initiated a wide-ranging transformation of Mexico, the so-called fourth transformation. First, he repealed several reforms of the former government, such as the education reform. Second, he stopped infrastructure projects, like the new Mexico City Texcoco Airport. In addition, President López Obrador has created new social programs and plans to revive the Mexican oil industry. He has also pledged to demilitarize the war on drugs, a strategy which has so far failed. Another element of the so-called fourth transformation are state and electoral reforms. Mexico has numerous autonomous bodies and agencies; however, the government plans to limit their autonomy and centralize power, indicating that one goal is to cut government spending, among other arguments. Overall, strategic planning involved in these transformations has been concentrated in the presidency, less in strategic planning units and bodies.
Although the United Kingdom has one of the most centralized political systems and is one of the long-established liberal democracies in the world, the resources directly available to the prime minister are relatively limited compared with those available to other heads of government. Formally, there is no prime ministerial department to provide strategic planning or advice, although the Cabinet Office provides an important coordinating role across government and its head, the cabinet secretary, attends cabinet meetings. The cabinet secretary is also the head of the civil service, after the two roles were separated under the 2010 – 2015 coalition government. In 2014, the post of chief executive of the civil service was created with the incumbent becoming a permanent secretary of the Cabinet Office in 2015. The departure of the incumbent CEO in April 2020 saw the role modified to chief operation officer, with a remit to lead efficiency drives across government. The Cabinet Office also houses the National Security Adviser and a centralized COVID-19 taskforce, with both offices led by top-ranked civil servants (permanent secretaries).

The governance of the Cabinet Office includes a board charged with the strategic and operational leadership of the department, on which eight of the 17 members are external, non-executive directors from diverse backgrounds. For strategic coordination across government, the key body is the Economic and Domestic Affairs Secretariat (EDS), established in summer 2015. Generally, the Civil Service has undergone substantial modernization and professionalization over the past decade. As the 2021 Cabinet Office annual report notes, its remit has “expanded from our traditional secretariat work to a much wider role at the center, coordinating delivery and driving change across government.”

At a political level, a special advisory unit has supported all recent prime ministers. Special advisers and civil servants staff these advisory units. The remit of the Number 10 Policy Unit is defined by the prime minister but tends to focus on strategic political and policy decisions. In 2021, the prime minister set up a new delivery unit, headed by Michael Barber (who had previously fulfilled a similar role during the Blair administration), to ramp-up policy implementation, replacing the Implementation Unit set up by David Cameron.

However, these structures in some cases diminished the executive’s ability for strategic planning, especially in the case of policy disunity in cabinet. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his (then) chief special adviser, Dominic Cummings, quickly adopted a strategy that combined opacity with confrontation, alleging that Parliament worked against “the people.” Without a majority in the House of Commons and without a public strategy for the government, this resulted in what many observers considered to be close to a constitutional crisis.

After Johnson won a substantial majority in the 2019 general election, the conflicts diminished initially. When Cummings was forced to leave, there was a substantial drop in headline grabbing initiatives and a return to normal civil service consultations. Latterly, a series of revelations about the conduct of staff in number 10 Downing Street have cast doubt on the effectiveness of the machinery for government strategy, highlighting the important role of the prime minster in setting the tone.
Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Occasionally, they exert some influence on government decision-making.
While the institutional infrastructure for strategic planning in Czechia remains relatively weak, a number of strategic frameworks exist, partly resulting from EU pressure. In April 2017, following two years of widespread consultations, the government approved Czechia’s 2030 strategic framework, which sets out a long-term vision for the development of the country (Government of the Czech Republic 2017). It also set up the Government Council for Sustainable Development, which is in charge of monitoring the implementation of the strategy as well as updating the strategy. The stated objectives correspond to the United Nations’ SDGs. The document is full of worthy, but extremely general commitments, such as promising support for low-carbon technologies without offering any specifications. There have been two changes of government since its approval and little sign that it has influenced policymaking. Thus, government policy manifestos continue to be the most important form of medium-term planning. They are presented to the Chamber of Deputies, after a new government assumes office, for a vote of confidence.
Government of the Czech Republic (2017): Strategic Framework Czech Republic 2030. Prague (
French governments commonly refer to ad hoc committees tasked with providing information on crucial issues. In rare cases, a report is requested from a single person. Committee members are mainly high-level civil servants, former or active politicians and academics, and often are chosen on the basis of their sympathy to the government in office at the time. Most reports are made public but a few remain unpublished, in particular when the report’s proposals appear too provocative to be accepted by social partners. This situation raises the concern that opportunism may prevail over real strategic planning. The risk is that reports that are too innovative or provocative will be immediately buried by the government for fear that powerful lobbies will protest (in particular the public sector unions).

Each minister is entitled to recruit 10 so-called cabinet members, usually young political appointees who are tasked with providing policy advice. However, short-term considerations are usually more important than strategic planning in this regard. In addition, some portfolios have high levels of turnover of ministers, making long-term planning impossible outside of senior civil servants’ ability to carry through their own bureaucratic agendas.

The only bodies that take a long-term view in terms of strategic planning are bureaucratic departments, such as those in the finance, transport, environment and foreign affairs ministries. The committee of economic advisers attached to the prime minister’s office produces reports on its own initiative or at the office’s request. Its impact on actual policymaking is limited, however. The Court of Accounts, whose reports often serve as the starting point of reforms, is taking on a growing importance with regard to long-term policymaking. Its annual and special reports are attracting increasing attention from public authorities and the media. Some are prepared at the request of governmental authorities, but many are prepared on the court’s own initiative.

France Stratégie, an interesting think tank attached to the prime minister, has recently developed into a body of strategic planning and policy evaluation, although its impact on governmental policy is uncertain for the time being. OECD reports are not part of the national strategic planning framework, but they are rather influential, as they compare countries’ performances and capacities to adjust to future challenges. Moreover, both the media and public opinion are very sensitive to international rankings.
The country’s small size and the consequently small size of its administration do not allow for sufficient strategic planning. Only a few public bodies offer simulations, such as the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies Luxembourg (STATEC) and the General Inspectorate of Social Security (Inspection Générale de la Sécurité Sociale, IGSS). The Economic and Social Council (Conseil économique et social), the University of Luxembourg and the public research institute, Luxembourg Institute of Socioeconomic Research (LISER) offer also analyses. The research department of the central bank (Banque Centrale du Luxembourg), the Conseil national des Finances publiques, the general inspectorate of the financial sector (Commission de surveillance du secteur financier, CSSF) focus on economics and finance planning.

The Ministry of State (led by the prime minister, who is also state minister) is tasked with overseeing institutional relations with the Grand Ducal Court, the Chamber of Deputies and the Council of State.

In January 2020, the government created the Luxembourg Sustainable Finance Initiative in conjunction with several partners including Luxembourg for Finance (the agency for the development of the financial center) and the High Council for Sustainable Development (Conseil Supérieur du Développement Durable), an independent civil society body that advises the Luxembourg government about sustainable development matters. The goal is to raise awareness about, promote and help develop sustainable finance initiatives in the Grand Duchy.

In February 2021, the government adopted the Electronic Governance 2021-2025 strategy, jointly developed by the Ministry of Digitalization and the Government IT Centre. This reflection aims to strengthen e-government and enable the transition to digital government within the framework of state modernization strategies.

The COVID-19 crisis created particular challenges for the Scientific Council for Health (Conseil scientifique dans la domaine de la Santé) (founded in 2005).
“Luxembourg Adopts Electronic Governance 2021-25 Strategy.” (23 February 2021). Accessed 14 January 2022.

European Commission, Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support, Moretti, C., Mackie, I., Stimpson, A., Public administrations in the EU Member States : 2020 overview, Publications Office, 2021.

“Autres acteurs.” Le portail des statistiques du Luxembourg. Accessed 14 January 2022.

Banque centrale du Luxembourg. Accessed 14 January 2022.

Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier. Accessed 14 January 2022.

Conseil économique et social. Accessed 14 January 2022.

Conseil national des Finances publiques. Accessed 14 January 2022.

Conseil scientifique dans le domaine de la Santé. Accessed 14 january 2022.

High Council for Sustainable Development/Nohaltegkeetsrot. Accessed January 2022.

Luxembourg Institute of Socioeconomic Research. Accessed 14 January 2022

Luxembourg Sustainable Finance Initiative. Accessed 14 January 2022.
Motivated by EU demands and by the objective of improving the country’s absorption and use of EU funds, the planning capacities of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister (Kancelaria Prezesa Rady Ministrów, KPRM) were expanded following EU accession. When Mateusz Morawiecki became prime minister in December 2017, the Center for Strategic Analysis was created in the Chancellery. Beginning with the 2016 Strategy for Responsible Development, the PiS government has presented various medium- and long-term reform programs. While planning capacities have existed, however, policymaking under the PiS government has ultimately been guided by the visions and inspirations of PiS party leader Jarosław Kaczyński.
There have been virtually no changes with regard to strategic capacity. While there are strategic planning bodies in most ministries, their impact remains limited. The prime minister’s advisory cabinet is more influential, but it has to deal with a number of day-to-day demands in addition to offering a long-term view on policy challenges and viable solutions. Immediate issues tend to gain precedence over long-term policy-planning. Moreover, the pressures of the pandemic compounded these immediate demands during the period under review. The relative absence of institutionalized forms of strategic planning is evidenced by the government’s decision to outsource the preparation for the Strategic Vision for the Economic Recovery Plan of Portugal.
Strategic planning is not given significant weight in Switzerland. It is further rendered difficult by the fact that the country has a quasi-presidential political system (meaning the government cannot be voted out of office by the parliament) with a collegial government, a strong non-professional element, a consociational decision-making structure, a strong corporatist relationship between a weak federal state and outside interest organizations, and considerable uncertainty deriving from the system of direct democracy. Compared with other advanced democracies, strategic planning in Switzerland is underdeveloped and, constrained by the governmental and federal structure and the logics of direct democracy, it is rather inefficient.

The Swiss government is not strictly speaking a parliamentary government and does not have a policy agenda comparable to a “normal” parliamentary government. Furthermore, all seven members of the government have equal rights and powers; there is no prime minister. The president of the government is primus inter pares. He or she is not leader of the government in the sense of a prime minister.

Strategic planning is the task of the Federal Chancellery, the central coordinating body of the federal administration. Strategic planning in this context involves: identifying the current legislative period’s major challenges; describing the legislative period’s major goals and instruments; specifying the goals for the current year; and exercising accountability by providing parliament with annual reports.

A recent review of the state of research finds that “in the context of a strongly federal and non-parliamentary system with extended direct democracy, the Federal Council usually fails to present – and implement – a forward-looking strategic management and coherent policy-planning with clear priorities” (Vatter 2020: 251).
Schedler, Kuno 2019: Strategische Staatsführung und Steuerungsinstrumente –wie können Regierung und Exekutive strategisch führen?, in: Ritz, Adrian, Theo Haldemann and Fritz Sager (eds.): Blackbox Exekutive. Regierungslehre in der Schweiz, Zürich: NZZ Libro, 285-305
Vatter, Adrian. 2018. Das Politische System Der Schweiz. Grundlagen, Institutionen Und Vergleich, 3rd edition, Baden-Baden: Nomos (UTB).
Vatter, Adrian (2020): Der Bundesrat. Die Schweizer Regierung. Zürich: NZZ
With Presidential Decree No. 13, the central harmonization function regarding strategic management components such as strategic planning, development of a performance program and production of the annual report is carried out by the Strategy and Budget Department. Previously these tasks had been the responsibility of different ministries. Strategic plans are prepared in public administrations within the scope of the central government, social security institutions, SOEs, special provincial administrations, and municipalities with populations of 50,000 or more. They are implemented through performance programs and monitored through annual reports. As of October 2021, a total of 49 strategic plans had been evaluated by the Strategy and Budget Department, 13 of which were developed by the central public administration, 35 by state universities and one by an SOE.

Under the new presidential system of government, the head of Strategy and Budget is affiliated with the Presidential Office. The 2021 Annual Plan of the Presidency emphasized that efforts are underway to strengthen and align the budget with the policies contained in the government’s main policy documents and the objectives and targets of the strategic plans in a holistic approach. The results of these attempts remain to be seen. There are no cumulative statistics on the frequency of meetings between strategic planning staff members and government heads. In general, these meetings are held once a year and during budget negotiations.
Cumhurbaşkanlığı Strateji ve Bütçe Başkanlığı. 2022 Yılı Cumhurbaşkanlığı Yıllık Programı.
In Bulgaria, systematic strategic planning is considered most important with regard to meeting EU membership requirements and preparing strategies and programs within the EU framework. These include the convergence program, the reform program as a part of the European Union’s 2020 strategy, and concrete strategical considerations in setting priorities for EU funds absorption. Under the macroeconomic imbalances procedure of the European Union, which categorizes Bulgaria as a country with imbalances, Bulgaria is obliged to integrate specific European Commission recommendations into the development of its policy strategies.

There are national strategies for security, energy, governance and the development of water resources, development of scientific research, Roma integration, physical education and sport. These strategies have been prepared in coordination with various ministries and on the basis of extensive discussions with the relevant expert communities. They are overseen by the line ministries and parliamentary committees responsible for these policy areas. Presently, the Council of Ministers’ portal for public consultations lists 160 “active” strategic documents relating to the national level. More than 20 of them were updated or created in 2019, and six have a time horizon that extends beyond 2025.

The deadlines for hearing and adopting strategies expired at the end of 2020 and within the first three months of 2021. The new seven-year strategies are weak, as they do not provide robust assessments of the previous period’s outcomes; the strategies are also overburdened by details that make it difficult to follow the trajectory of implementation; and, most importantly, they fail to evaluate which objectives have been met thus far and why.

To make matters worse, work on the strategies effectively came to a halt during the elections. The only strategic work performed by the caretaker governments has been on the Recovery and Resilience Plan, which was commented on by the European Commission in December. At the time of this writing (January 2022), the government is making amendments to the plan while other strategies have been put aside for the time being.
Strategic documents at the national level (a list of documents in Bulgarian), available at:
Since joining the European Union in 2013, strategic-planning capacity in Croatia has increased substantially, in part due to the learning process that took place during the accession period, but also thanks to Croatia’s inclusion in the EU strategic-planning exercise organized within the framework of the European Semester. Moreover, many local and regional self-government units have realized that success in drawing EU funds largely depends on the quality of strategic planning.

Despite the introduction of new institutional and procedural arrangements, policymaking in Croatia continues to be dominated by short-term political interests. Strategic decisions are still very often made pro forma, lack political support and end up being shelved. Also, in numerous cases, strategies are inconsistent and lack some of the elements that strategic documents should contain. A good case in point has been the fate of the National Development Strategy 2030, announced by the second Plenković government as an umbrella strategy. Back in 2017/18, interest associations and ordinary citizens were invited to provide their input with much acclaim. On 5 February 2021, the Croatian parliament finally adopted the National Development Strategy of the Republic of Croatia, which covers the period through 2030. Presenting the strategy in the parliament, Plenković emphasized that it focuses on four developmental pillars: sustainable economy and society, strengthening resilience to crises, the green and digital transition, and balanced regional development. The problem, however, is that there are no deadlines or benchmarks in the document as adopted by parliament that would enable the fulfillment of these goals to be monitored.

Ivo Bićanić, a leading Croatian economist, has criticized the strategy, emphasizing that it is “irreparably bad” because it is a “sterile and toothless document” that does not create obligations for this or future governments, and does not limit the implementation of their programs, whatever they may be. Plenković and Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Nataša Tramišak promised that as many as 67 sectoral strategic documents would be harmonized with Strategy 2030 by 2022. The question remains, however, whether any further strategies and policies will emerge from this “umbrella strategy.” For example, other democratic countries often adopt such general development documents, but their adoption is followed by the kind of clearly articulated sectoral policies that Croatia has generally not developed. Thus, it seems that in Croatia, daily politics have again trumped long-term strategic planning.
Bićanić, I. (2020) Bićanić: Nismo baš svi bedaci. Za taj novac strategiju su mogli napisati Rodrik i Acemoglu, recenziju
Krugman i Stiglitz i još bi ostalo za Ekonomski institut, (We are not all fools. For that money, Rodrik and Acemoglu could write a strategy, peer-review Krugman and Stiglitz, and more would remain for the Institute of Economics), Web-portal Ideje, November 15, 2020 (
Petak, Z. (2018) Policy-Making Context and Challenges of Governance in Croatia, in: Z. Petak, K. Kotarski (eds.), Policy-Making at the European Periphery: The Case of Croatia. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 29-45.
The foundations of integrating strategic planning into administrative practices were mainly laid out in 2014 reforms. The Directorate General for European Programs, Coordination and Development (DGEPCD) was assigned competences for planning, coordination, monitoring and the evaluation of implementation. The DGEPCD was renamed the Directorate General of Coordination (DGC) and placed under the Ministry of Finance (December 2021). This seems to clarify and strengthen the DGC’s role as the general coordinator for the above tasks.

In line with the 2014 law on fiscal responsibility, planning and coordination of development by the DGC, headed by the secretary of the Council of Ministers and under the finance minister, may be more coherent.

Implementation of strategic planning has been slow, because of the lack of services needed to acquire capacity and planning skills. A three-year strategic plan is now found on the websites of all ministries, an indication of the progress made. The Recovery and Resilience Plan supplements the overall goals of planning.

However, implementation seems problematic. Since 2016, only 67% of development projects have been completed. Meanwhile, the extent to which ad hoc policies compromise the coherence of planning is an open issue.
1. Ministry of Finance, 2020, Strategic Framework for Fiscal Policy (in Greek),
2. Many in the budget, little executed (in Greek), Philenews, 9 January 2022,
The institutional capacity for strategic planning in Slovakia is weak. Capacities for planning in the ministries are limited, and there is no central policy-planning unit in the Government Office. The fragmented nature and the rigid departmentalism of public administration in the country have complicated strategic planning. So has the high degree of staff turnover which, driven as it is by a politicized public administration, limits the continuity of institutional expertise. The Matovič government created the new position of a Deputy Prime Minister for Legislation and Strategic Planning. However, the first person to hold this office, Štefan Holý, has done little to improve the government’s strategic capacity.
The institutional capacity for strategic planning in Slovenia is rather weak. Capacities for planning in the ministries are limited, and there is no central policy-planning unit in the Government Office. After assuming office, the Cerar government announced that it would expand planning capacities. However, save for the adoption in December 2017 of the strategic framework for policymaking, the Slovenian Development Strategy 2030, the Cerar government achieved little in the way of progress. The Šarec government did nothing to improve strategic planning. Meanwhile, the Janša government has been rather pre-occupied with the COVID-19 pandemic, but still managed to prepare a comprehensive report on the implementation of the Slovenian Development Strategy 2030.
Government of the Republic of Slovenia (2017): Slovenian Development Strategy 2030. Ljubljana (

Government of the Republic of Slovenia (2020): Report on the Development 2020. Ljubljana (
The Orbán governments have subordinated all political actions to the goal of consolidating their power and have reacted to problems and challenges on a day-to-day basis, without reference to an over-reaching plan. The economic and fiscal priorities have frequently shifted. While ministries in general, and the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet Office in particular have grown substantially, not much effort has been invested in building institutional capacities for strategic planning.
Long-term strategic planning in Iceland is often vague, with comparatively weak execution, supervision, and revision of plans. When specific objectives are established in the policy-planning phase, a lack of sufficient incentives or institutional mechanisms typically limits their realization. As a result, the government can delay or change strategic plans. For example, parliament approves a strategic regional policy every four years (Stefnumótandi byggðaáætlun), but – as this plan has the status of a parliamentary resolution and not legal status – the government has no binding obligation to implement the plan. Consequently, only certain aspects of these four-year plans have ever been implemented.

Policymaking is monitored by cabinet ministers, who rely on their respective ministerial staff for advice and assistance.
Special Investigation Committee (SIC) (2010), Report of the Special Investigation Commission (SIC), report delivered to parliament 12 April, 008/skyrsla-nefndarinnar/english/. Accessed 3 February 2022.

Parliamentary resolution on a strategic regional plan for the period 2018 – 2024.
Accessed 17th October 2019. Accessed 3 February 2022.
While EU membership has forced the Romanian government to produce regular strategic documents, and despite Romania’s 2018 National Reform Program having declared strategic planning a key priority for the government, policymaking in Romania still lacks strategic planning. In March 2019, parliament adopted “Romania 2040,” which outlines a long-term national social and economic development strategy that is coordinated by a multi-stakeholder commission (Commisia Romania 2040) and elaborated by a council (Consiliul de Programare Economica si Comisia Nationala de Strategie si Prognoza) that would advise government policy for years to come. In June 2019, however, the Constitutional Court rejected “Romania 2040” criticizing the substitution of the parliament by the commission. Critics also noted that the strategy had been pushed by PSD head Dragnea so that a smaller PSD-controlled commission would adopt the national budget for the years to come instead of parliament.

The European Commission continues to support Romania to improve its strategic planning capacities through the implementation of the Annual Working Plan of the Government and supporting frameworks. Of note, the Romanian government extended its strategic planning systems so that all 13 Institutional Strategic Plans were updated for 2019–2022.
Romanian Government (2018): National Reform Program 2018. Bucharest (

Romanian Government (2020): National Reform Program 2020. Bucharest (
In practice, there are no units and bodies taking a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions.
Back to Top