Author:Sarker, Abu Elias


Public sector reform (PSR) has become a global phenomenon primarily guided by the neo-liberal market ideology. While the rate of success of market-oriented reforms in the Western world is impressive, a dismal picture is evident in the non-Western setting. The available literature concludes that market-oriented reforms do not fit well into the neo-patrimonial structural imperatives of these societies (Mongkol, 2011; Schick, 1998; Bale & Dale, 1998; Yanguas & Bukenya, 2016; Khan, 2010; Magone, 2011; O'Neil, 2007). For the Arab world, similar predilections are often echoed implying that policy and managerial sophistications in the public sector nurtured in advanced competitive capitalist and liberal democratic societies are not compatible with Arab countries' Hofstedian cultural norms or Bendixian neo-patrimonialism (Common, 2008; Jabra & Jabra, 2005; Bale & Dale, 1998). Amidst the failures, there are 'islands of effectiveness' (Crook, 2010) or 'positive deviance' (Andrews, 2015). The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of these 'islands' of success in spite of the fact that it possesses a neo-matrimonial state structure (Routley, 2012; Hivdt, 2009; Levy, 2015).

The current article adds value to to the litertaure by exploring the implementation of neo-liberal reforms in the non-Western setting such as the UAE by taking into account the policy and magerial reforms and the subsequent outcomes of such reforms.

The overriding objectives of PSRs have been to reduce the size and role of the government and to make the public sector managerially dynamic, efficient and effective. Like the developed world, developing countries have also embraced PSRs. The world has witnessed unprecedented changes in the spheres of economy, polity, culture and technology. The public sector once thought to be the "panacea for all diseases" faced considerable bottlenecks amidst these massive societal changes. On account of the oil shock in the 1970s, fiscal crises, deteriorating performance of government enterprises and public service bureaucracies, scholars and policy makers clamored for rethinking the role and scope of the public sector (Pollitt & Bouckaert, 2011; Hughes, 2017). Two significant developments took place in the advanced world. First, colossal reforms were commenced to open up the space for the strong role of the private and non-profit sectors. Second, the age-old public bureaucracy underwent transformations. The neoliberal market model came into prominence which addressed both developments. At the policy level, the plurality of state with an overwhelming emphasis on the expanded role of the private sector became prominent. At the managerial level, managerial precepts under the broad umbrella of what is popularly known as new public management (NPM) were implanted in managing the affairs of public services. Very soon, both developments taken place in the developed world swamped the public sector reform discourses in the developing world. Along with NPM, other models including governance, good governance, new public governance (NPG), Neo-Weberian State, digital government and so forth have proliferated and extensive researches have been done on these models (McCourt, 2013; Levy, 2015; Hughes, 2017). We assume that it would be improper to analyze PSR initiatives in a country with one particular model. Rather, the facets of different models can be discerned in a particular country.

Researches on the antecedents of reforms and their impact on outcomes suffer from some major problems. The major one lies in the failure to address the socio-cultural and political specificity of the antecedents. This article aims at exploring the impacts of the antecedents of reforms and their implications for outcomes by taking into cognizance of societal dynamics of antecedents and their impact on outcomes. On account of this assumption, a slected number of antecents are discussed and their concomitant implications for types and outcomes of reforms. Many scholars tend to qualifiy the UAE as a neo-patrimonial state, developmental state, and allocative state (Davidson, 2009; Hidvt, 2009, 2011; Mansour, 2017). In spite of this tagging, the UAE is one of the few non-Western countries that has shown relative effectiveness in pursuing reforms. The country has been very cautious in selecting items that it found implementable under specfific socio-political conditions. The principal purpose of this study is to examine the antecedents and outcomes of PSRs. There is no dearth of literature on PSRs at the global and regional levels. The current study makes two unique contributions. First, it shows that even under a neo-patrimonial state, quality outcomes are possible. Second, there is no compresensive research available in terms of the variables chosen for this study on the UAE public sector.


Antecedants of Reforms

PSR is defined as "deliberate changes in the structures and processes of public sector organizations with the objective of getting them (in some sense) to run better" (Pollitt & Bouckaert, 2011, p.2). Kettl (2006) has identified a number of core components of PSR which include productivity, marketization, service orientation, decentralization, market-driven policy and outputs and outcomes-driven accountability. He argues that the overwhelming approach has been to replace Weberian rule and authority-driven processes by market-oriented processes. Not necessarily, all developing countries have sought to pursue all the components.

A large body of literature have emerged over the last two decades or so on the enablers of reforms in both developed and developing countries (De Vries et al., 2016; Lynn Jr., 2013, Andrew, 2015; Thynne, 2003). As such, environmental, organizational, operational, and individual factors have been identified as the drivers of administrative change. PSRs could be guided by different types of antecedants depending on the context. De Vries et al., (2016) has developed a comprehensive theoretical model that includes four sets of antecedents including environmental, organizational, individual and the nature of reform itself. All these four antecedants entail a number of variables that may or may not have positive impact on he types of reforms leading towards encouraging or negative outcomes. Generic in nature, this model could be quite useful for exploring the impact of antecedents of PSRs on outcomes. However, the major drawback of this model lies in the negation of the global and contexual factors impinging upon the reform outcomes in the non-Western setting. For a clear understanging, the major relevant antecedents are discussed in this article.

global forces. Some authors do not give importance to the environmental catalysts to stimulate reforms (Hartley, 2013). But the implications of globalization for PSRs in the non-Western setting are quite significant (Haque, 2015). The implications of globalization, international competitiveness, global technological advancements and changing aspirations of citizens for quality services cannot be overemphasized particularly in the context of transitional and emerging economies (Hughes, 2017; Pollitt & Bouckaert, 2011). It is now quite common notion that private firms operating in a country find it difficult to be internationally competitive unless its government demonstrates its efficiency through innovations.

The world has witnessed an unprecedented pace of globalization which necessitated most countries to reform their conventional public sector management systems (Farazmand, 1999; Hughes, 2017). The conventional state-dominated system came under severe attack on account of the overwhelming presence of the state in socio-economic spheres and the fallout of over-bureaucratization of the public service delivery system (Haque, 2015; Sarker, 2006). The neo-liberal market ideology popularly known as 'Washington Consensus' triggered monumental changes in theoretical and practical domain of the public sector. Being influenced by the public choice, transaction cost and principal-agent theories, the neo-liberal market model underscored the supremacy of the market forces over state intervention in different spheres of society. Mutebi & Sivaraks (2007) observe that since the 1980s, the reformers have found two alternative models of reform--one is market-driven promoting market-driven ideas such as, efficiency, flexibility, less regulation and red tape and the second one is normative emphasizing transparency, accountability and participatory mechanisms. However, the market-driven model became quite popular. For the developing world, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international multilateral and bilateral agencies came up with the idea of governance. The descriptive aspects of the model entailed the plurality of the state with interactive relationships between the government, the private sector and civil society. The recommendation has been to liberate the private sector and constrict the role of the government through deregulation and privatization (Farazmand, 1999; Hughes, 2017). The prescriptive dimension of the governance model entails such normative descriptors as voice and accountability, political stability, control of corruption, participation and so forth (Sarker, 2006). The whole idea has been to strengthen market capabilities of the developing world.

Another related development that stemmed from the neoliberal market ideology was the NPM. Although there is disagreement with regard to the actual meaning of NPM, it goes without saying that business management precepts were expected to supplant conventional bureaucratic administrative practices. Professional management, explicit standards and measures of performance, greater emphasis on output controls, use of competition and greater discipline and parsimony in resource use are the essential elements of NPM (Hood, 1991; Hughes, 2017; De Vries & Nemec...

To continue reading