Towards Better Public Leadership
RiTo’s second volume contained two articles tinged with skepticism where modernization of public administration was concerned, one from Ülle Madise (129-134) and the other by Tiina Randma and Taavi Annus (135-144). The same edition was graced by then-PM Mart Laar’s article on the necessity of modernization (40-46).
The prime minister’s positions were truthful, based on facts and international practice: “Estonian public administration must be more democratic and effective than heretofore in order to ensure the state’s competitiveness and provide backing for a civic society.” Unfortunately the premier’s efforts lacked thoroughness and follow-through and his goodwill sank into a morass of administrative territorialism. The government committed some technical lapses as well, which are correctable, however.
The articles by the other writers mentioned above make it clear that they do not thoroughly understand the bases or practice of the quest for modernization. The claim that private sector or new public management solutions cannot be successful in the public sector betrays a lack of understanding: Ted Gaebler and David Osborne’s Reinventing Government, the basis for new public management, contains hundreds of examples of how NPM has achieved notable results in many different regions and fields.
In the US, the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 has reduced the civil service by 252,000 people and saved 108 billion dollars. The comparison between reformed and unreformed institutions is also striking: 31% and 84% of clients, respectively, are satisfied with the work of the institutions, and 27% as opposed to 77% feel their opinion now counts.
One reason for the success of NPM may be that it is very grounded in reality and appeals to universal truths. The simple goal – to create incentives that stimulate people and organizations to achieve better results – is easy to understand and does not run counter to human nature. Another reason is the similarity of results in the public and private sectors, which especially in the US has accounted for the creation of many consulting firms and think tanks that count state institutions as their clients.