1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Visible Hands: Taking Responsibility for Social Development

Programme Area: Special Events (2000 - 2009)
Project Title: Geneva 2000: The Next Step in Social Development
No. of Pages: 190

From Chapter 4: A New Mission for the Public Sector…

Many efforts were made in the 1990s to reform the public sector. In developing countries, inappropriate schemes often served to weaken the capacity for effective governance. But the tide may now be turning, with a more realistic appreciation of what states can and should achieve.

Between 1945 and 1980, the public sector expanded at an unprecedented pace. Most people wanted the state to play a central part in national development. The OECD countries wanted government to redistribute wealth, protect the vulnerable and stimulate economic demand. The developing countries wanted states that crystallized national identity and built modern economies. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern and Central Europe had already built states that controlled virtually every aspect of their citizens’ lives.

During the 1980s and 1990s, however, some states disintegrated and many were affected by free-market reforms. In a globalizing world, public sector reform became a central preoccupation of citizens and governments. The previous chapter looked at governance from the vantage point of democracy. This chapter looks more closely at public sector management: at the state’s ability to deliver the public services needed in the twenty-first century.

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