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date: 15 January 2021

Administrative Reform: Opportunities, Drivers, and Barrierslocked

  • Anthony B.L. CheungAnthony B.L. CheungDepartment of Asian and Policy Studies, The Education University of Hong Kong

Summary

Administrative reform has become an almost permanent feature of most governments across the world driven by the pursuit of efficiency, responsiveness and performance and sometimes induced by domestic or external crises. The paradigms and priorities of reform vary at different times in tandem with the dominant ideological currents. Despite similarities in the vision, rhetoric and tools of reform engaged, regional and national variations can be observed attributable to historical, cultural, political and institutional factors.

These factors mediate the specific reform agenda setting and implementation processes, resulting in distinct national reform hybrids. The realpolitik of reform cannot be devoid of the prevailing political order and structures of power and resources, which determine institutional interactions such as between politicians and bureaucrats, between the center and localities, and between the executive and legislature. Forces for and against change interplay in the domains of politics, bureaucracy and society to ultimately make or break reform. Opportunities for change are rooted in the same setting as the resistance to reform, such that the drivers of and the barriers to reform are paradoxically two sides of the same coin. All reform junctures comprise elements of both preservation and innovation or renovation, mostly ending in a negotiated settlement and mixed results.

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