No. 2




The Ideas and Practice of Public Administration Reform

31 October 2000


RiTo No. 2, 2000

In order to raise administrative capacity and implement the principles of modern public administration, a “tiger leap” is needed that would be qualitatively different from the “natural” development that has occurred until now. Thus, the changes initiated by the coalition agreement to improve the functioning of public administration, can be called an all-round comprehensive reform.

Estonian public administration must become more democratic and effective in the future in order to strengthen the competitiveness of the state and guarantee the existence of the civil society. The aim of administrative reform is to create a system that enables the state to carry out the public functions in an innovative, flexible, high-quality, effective and efficient manner (with optimum levels of expense), where the interests and rights of citizens are taken into account and where processes are open and transparent, and civil servants are accountable for their actions to the people and politicians. Consequently, strategic planning obtains special meaning – the need for quick solutions must be combined with the necessity to formulate longer-term goals and plans. Strategic working groups that were formed with the Government protocol decision on 4 July 2000 must find the balance between inert government machinery and a need for quick change. The task of the working groups is to find suitable solutions for Estonia to create “good public administration” (“Good public administration” may be identified by the principles of public administration that set standards to governance, see European Principles For Public Administration: Sigma paper no 27, OECD, Paris 1998:

The following strategies need to be worked out for implementing the administrative reform:

  • the strategy for the development of local government and regional administration;
  • budgetary reform and strengthening of financial management, strategy for 
  • strengthening internal control and audit;
  • development of citizen-oriented public administration;
  • clarification of institutional roles from the point of view of the core state and 
  • strengthening public policy-making capacity
  • civil service development strategy.

As international practice has demonstrated, reforms have been more successful when led by political and administrative leaders working together. When ministries are responsible for preparing and implementing the administrative reform in different fields, and the office of public administration has the role of co-ordinating, monitoring the process, motivating and assisting the Government, then the Government’s own tasks in the context of the public administration reform can be summarised as follows: leader; catalyst; model for strategic thinking; coordinator; informant; evaluator; the Government must persuade and raise awareness of the need for changes.

Full article in Estonian

Mart Laar, born 1960, historian, University of Tartu 1983, MA in philosophy 1994. Work: teacher of history 1983-87, head of the department of historical monuments of the Ministry of Culture 1987-90; member of the Supreme Council 1990-92, member of the Estonian Congress and Estonian Committee 1990-92, member of the Constitutional Assembly 1992, elected to VII, VIII and IX Riigikogu; Prime Minister of Estonia 1992-94 and March 1999-. Affiliation: Pro Patria Party 1992-95 and Pro Patria Union 1998- chairman, Estonian Heritage Society, Estonian University Students Society, PEN Club, Council of Economic Reforms of the Carnegie Foundation.