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New Book: Public Sector Reform in Developing Countries: Capacity Challenges to Improve Services

21 Mar 2006

The public sectors of many developing countries have experienced profound crises in recent decades, and have lost much of their capacity to deliver services and pursue development programmes more generally. So while there is general agreement on the need for public sector reform, there is much disagreement about its content and direction.

The contributors to this volume examine the potential and limits of managerial, fiscal and decentralization reforms. Because most developing countries pursuing public sector reforms are highly indebted, they are exposed to a brand of market-driven reform favoured by creditors and donors. A major paradox of these reforms is that they are being implemented in countries perceived to have the least capacity to do so. There is a very serious problem of reform overload, for example, as governments are forced to undertake too many reforms that pay little attention to existing institutions and practices. It may well be that countries need to complete the process of constructing effective public administrations before applying most of the reforms.

The book does highlight cases where selective use of some of the reforms has delivered positive results. However, it also points out that while reforms have been ambitious and wide-ranging on paper, they have proved ineffective in improving services. Public sector reforms need to be grounded in a policy framework that privileges the developmental role of the state if the goal of improved delivery of services, especially as they affect the poor, is to be achieved.

Introduction, Y. Bangura and G.A. Larbi
Part I: Managerial Reform
Applying the New Public Management in Developing Countries, G.A. Larbi
Elusive Public Sector Reform in East and Southern Africa, O. Therkildsen
Public Sector Management Reform in Latin America, A. Nickson
Capacity to Deliver? Management, Institutions and Public Services in Developing Countries, R. Batley and G.A. Larbi
Part II: Fiscal Reform
Fiscal and Capacity Building Reform, Y. Bangura
Employment and Pay Reform in Developing and Transition Societies, W. McCourt
Part III: Decentralization Reform
Fiscal Decentralization in Developing Countries: Theory and Practice, P. Smoke
Decentralization Policies and Practices Under Adjustment and Democratization in Africa, D. Olowu
Public-Private Partnerships and Pro-Poor Development: The Experience of the Cordoba Water Concession in Argentina, A. Nickson
Conclusion: Public Sector Reform; What are the Lessons of Experience? G.A. Larbi and Y. Bangura

Yusuf Bangura is Research Coordinator at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Geneva, Switzerland. George A. Larbi is Senior Lecturer in Public Sector Management and Governance in the International Development Department of the School of Public Policy, University of Birmingham, UK.

Public Sector Reform in Developing Countries: Capacity Challenges to Improve Services is copublished with Palgrave Macmillan; hardback, ISBN 1-4039-8771-8, 312 pages, 2006, £50.

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