17 April 1996


17 April 1996

Press Release


19960417 Although it had become fashionable to see government as a problem, "no country has made progress without positive stimulus from good governments", the representative of Guyana said this afternoon, as the General Assembly continued its consideration of the role of public administration in development.

Expressing a similar view, the representative of Egypt said public administration was one of the main means through which governments could respond to the wishes of their people. A number of speakers, including the Deputy Secretary of the Ministry for Finance of Malawi, stressed that government's role was now being redefined in view of the growing role of the private sector.

The representative of Germany was among those stressing that public administration had to be based on the rule of law and democracy, with transparency and accountability to minimize mismanagement and corruption. Citing the effects of the genocide of 1994, the Cabinet Director of the Ministry of Public Service of Rwanda said the ghosts of that tragedy hung over Rwanda like a fog which must be cleared if development issues were to be effectively addressed.

Statements were also made by the Director-General of the State Planning Organization of Turkey, the Adviser on Public Administration to the Prime Minister of Mauritania, and the Government Commissioner for Public Administration of Hungary. Also addressing the Assembly were the representatives of the Kyrgyz Republic, Algeria, Belarus and Malta.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 18 April, to continue its consideration of the role of public administration in development.

Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this afternoon to continue its discussion of the role of public administration in development, particularly in developing countries and countries with economies in transition.


S.R.INSANALLY (Guyana) said that in recent years there had been a marked tendency to diminish the importance of public administration. That accompanied the belief that more things could be left to the "magic hand of the market". In some countries, he added, "it even became fashionable to see government as a problem, to denounce 'big' government".

Economic progress was due, however, both to good public administration and to individual initiative, which good governments have actively facilitated and fostered, he said. "No country has made progress without positive stimulus from good governments". In later years, there had been something of a reaction to that attitude. He hoped that the present session of the General Assembly would add to the better understanding of the proper contribution of public administration in the 1990s.

He said it was now generally agreed, for example, that economic development only occurred where there was a rule of law. For that, a public administration system providing a transparent and impartial system of law, which was "utterly predictable", represented a firm basis for development. "That role cannot be privatized", he said.

On the other hand, he continued, very few governments today, developed or developing, "are as free of corruption as they would like". Corruption was a serious obstacle to economic progress, as was clear from the history of developed countries during the nineteenth century. All steps should be taken to arrest corruption in the public service. His country was stressing accountability and transparency in its efforts to eliminate corruption. To that end, it had established an Integrity Commission and attempted to instill a new culture of ethics in its public service. Finally, governments in developing countries must adopt a pioneering role in the economy. They could not afford to be "laissez-faire".

SOLIMAN AWAAD (Egypt) said public administration was one of the main means through which governments could respond to the wishes of their people. State administrative organs were faced with the burden of seeking to promote social and economic development, preserve the environment, control overpopulation and provide employment for increasing numbers of young people.

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In 1991, Egypt began implementation of a comprehensive reform programme, he said. The process of privatizing public assets had begun, and efforts had been undertaken to reduce the public budget deficit. Other measures included the cancellation of tariff barriers on imports, as well as the gradual cancellation of non-tariff barriers. Economic data was being collected and analysed, and a suitable economic environment for the private sector was being developed.

A new Ministry for Administrative Development had been established, and continued attention would be given to the provision of social services, he said. A new office had been established to implement a pragmatic programme in communications and data collection. A centre had also been established for the training of administrative leaders and government employees. He called for enhancement of the United Nations role in promoting the exchange of information among States. Both the United Nations system and donor countries should provide tangible support for the relevant efforts of developing countries.

JOSEPH CHITEYEYE, Deputy Secretary of the Ministry for Finance of Malawi, said that his country had implemented a number of development programmes that were aimed at raising the standard of living of its people. As a result of those programmes, some gains were made, particularly in the past two decades. However, the incidence of poverty had remained severe and widespread. Thus, poverty alleviation had been adopted as his Government's central theme. Reforms were being carried out at all levels to implement the poverty alleviation programme and the Government's role was being redefined in view of the growing role of the private sector, non-governmental organizations and local authorities.

He said one of the Government's roles in that respect was to mobilize resources, both locally and in the donor community, which could be provided directly to local communities for the construction of such things as schools, water schemes and health centres. At district level, most programmes were still implemented by central government, though a decision had been made to strengthen the capacity of the district councils to enable them to take on those tasks. At the national level, the Government was implementing the same poverty alleviation programme and also responding to many other demands made by the general public, such as transparency, social and political stability and respect for human rights. The passage from a one-party system to a multi- party one had created great expectations for improvements in the delivery of goods and services by the Government.

He said reforms undertaken by the Malawi Government in the public service system included: the establishment of information technology; the identification of overlapping government functions, and others that would be privatized; and a restructuring of the salary structure. Finally, his

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Government fully recognized the role of the private sector as the engine of economic development.

GERHARD WALTER HENZE (Germany) said public administration had to be based on the rule of law and democracy. Transparency and accountability for all public institutions were essential to combat all forms of mismanagement and corruption.

In the five years since reunification, Germany had struggled with the difficult task of reshaping its public administration, he said. Re- establishing, reorganizing, rebuilding and reshaping public organizations in the eastern part of Germany was still an ongoing process. The change from a centralized economy, in which the State was involved in all aspects of the production of goods and services, took time and was expensive. In that process, there was a need for supportive administrative structures at all levels. Even more important was the participation of the people in the making of decisions that were of immediate concern to them.

The process of restructuring in eastern and central Europe covered such areas as the judiciary system, tax legislation, staff policies and training, and defining the role of the private sector, he said. It required a strong democratic structure, a government able to listen and communicate, and a responsive and accountable civil service. Efforts must focus on ensuring respect for property rights, labour laws and the protection of citizens rights against bureaucracies. Germany had cooperated with many countries in their efforts to reform public administrations. From that experience, a universal principle had emerged: decentralization could enhance the use of human, economic and financial resources.

MEHMET ATALAY, Director-General of the State Planning Organization of Turkey, said that his country had basically followed the planning path adopted by many market economies after the Second World War. Turkey acquired expertise and accumulated experience in development planning from the 1960s to the 1990s. Today, it was a dynamic developing country. Its policies were oriented to macro-level strategic issues. The State Planning Organization was the entity mainly responsible for the preparation of national development plans.

Public administration and development were inseparable, he continued. Since 1980, Turkey had applied an outward-oriented and private sector-based development strategy, parallel to the major trends in global conditions. The succeeding Turkish governments recognized the need for privatization, development of new markets, decentralization and accountability, among other measures. All of those had now become pivotal issues in the field of public administration in the world today.

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In that context, he said, knowledge was becoming a crucial element for a successful and responsive organization and management of public agencies and, in that sense information technologies and quality staff were two indispensable elements. Those two elements would be crucial to the quality of Turkey's public administration in the coming century. The United Nations should put more emphasis on country-specific requirements and solutions, underlining the link between public administration and the level of development.

ASCAR AITMATOV (Kyrgyzstan) said that evidently, as demonstrated by the General Assembly's dedicating a resumed session to the theme of public administration, "we have come to the stage where the need for a fundamental review of that role is urgent" and more apparent than ever.

Like other transition countries, his country faced a major challenge in improving government effectiveness. Along with adjusting the governance system to the market-oriented economy and the process of democratization, the Kyrgyz Republic was engaged in building up and strengthening new public institutions, as a newly independent State.

Several structural reforms had already taken place, he continued. For example, the number of ministries and State agencies had decreased by half. A special unit was set up to address public sector reform as well as training. In that area, the cooperation with other agencies, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank, was one of the Government's top priorities.

Training was one of the most urgent needs; the Government's administration and management system had not kept pace with the changes in modern society. The earlier predominance of central planning meant that many public servants had technical skills, but almost no training on policy analysis, evaluation or modern implementation methods. "New management methods and techniques are almost unknown", he said.

Among other areas in which the Kyrgyz Government was keenly interested was the global programme for the integration of public administration and the science of disaster, as undoubtedly natural disasters threatened development processes "and Kyrgyzstan is particularly disaster-prone".

The delegate expressed his country's support for the pro-active role played by the United Nations in assisting governments, and also the recommended coordination between all inter-agency programmes in public administration and finance.

RAMTANE LAMAMRA (Algeria) said that, since independence, Algeria had sought to establish solid institutions which could lay the groundwork for an

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economic and social progress. In that process, a web of industries had been set up and the needs of a deprived population had been addressed. Free enterprise and private initiative had been encouraged. The challenges facing public administration today called for a refocusing towards promoting the well-being of all society. Attention was being devoted to preserving macroeconomic stability, achieving national consensus in an open society and restructuring the State's presence in the economic arena.

He said there was a need to tread warily in the process of administrative reform. For many developing countries, public administration had represented a cohesive force. There could be no universal conclusion on the need to reduce the State or dismantle sectors of public administration at the expense of networks which supported economic and social life in many countries. It was important to take into account the diverse situations in individual countries. There could be no single model for public administration. Many developing countries suffered less from over- administration than from under-administration.

Structural adjustment policies had hurt the ability of governments to formulate appropriate development policies, he said. Reform of the public sector went beyond looking at budgetary priorities. It must strengthen the ability of government to meet the needs of the governed. The United Nations had a key role to play in that process.

ALYAKSANDR M. SYCHOU (Belarus) said his country had set itself a series of tasks to effect the move from a planned to a market economy. The effectiveness of public administration had been a key factor in the success of that transition effort in Belarus. Reform of the public administration currently involved focusing on leading edge technology, while stimulating long-term capital investment and direct foreign investment. Support for entrepreneurship was among the factors which had contributed to a marked lowering of inflation rates. Interest rates for credit had also been reduced. Total exports had also increased considerably.

Thus, for the first time in several years, there had been a halt in the catastrophic drop in salaries and real income among the population, he said. However, the Government was experiencing difficulties, chiefly owing to a shortage of qualified management personnel. Another destabilizing factor was the brain drain of qualified people.

In its reform efforts, Belarus had benefited from a wide range of United Nations system assistance, as well as other forms of international and bilateral support. Those had included World Bank loans amounting to $170 million. The Government had also been implementing recommendations of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), while taking account of the social effects of reform, he concluded

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DIALLO AMADOU OUSMANE, Adviser on Organization and Management of Public Administration to the Prime Minister of Mauritania, said that after independence, his country found itself confronted with the urgent need to build a nation state. This required the rapid organization of civil society and the building of the appropriate State structures; it then had to take over the key sectors of the economy.

The State thus found itself as chief employer and chief driving force in the economy at all levels, and in development, he continued. The Government set up a broad programme of structural adjustment, in the context of the economic policies of the time. To achieve the decentralization and institutional development, the Government focused on modernizing its administration and strove for the establishment of a pluralistic democracy.

Mauritania's experience, since 1985, was that "there is no democracy without a State based on law, and no State based on law without an administration impregnated with a profound sense of public service, attentive to the value and needs of its citizens", the delegate said. The State must adapt itself to the needs of development, where citizens were actors, or better yet, partners in the same venture.

The State was also now in the process of disengaging itself from the productive sector, he said. Investment initiatives and privatization were a few of the measures undertaken in that respect. Mauritania had also liberalized commerce and monetary exchange. The institutional apparatus was being reorganized, and these reforms included a decentralization at the communal level, a new Constitution, which was submitted to a plebiscite in 1991, the reinforcement of the main decision centres and a new State staff policy.

Other programmes and reforms illustrated Mauritania's development efforts. A vast programme to protect the mothers and children of Mauritania was being implemented; a National Council for the environment had been created, and several non-governmental organizations had become operational. Institutions for the training of public civil servants were being planned, so as to develop a culture of public service; they could also include management training for the private sector. Private enterprise could finance, or co- finance, some of these initiatives. Regional cooperation would be an effective solution to the challenges of sustainable development, he added.

Mauritania proposed the recognition of the eminent role of public administration in development, and the development and use of the expertise offered by different bodies -- national, regional and international -- to continue to provide technical and financial assistance in this field, he said.

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VIANNEY SHUMBUSHO, Cabinet Director of the Ministry of Public Service of Rwanda, said the recent war and catastrophic genocide of 1994 had resulted in destruction of approximately one seventh of the population, most of whom were in the productive labour force. It had also involved destruction of infrastructure and equipment, the collapse of institutions, a severe setback in agricultural and industrial activities, an exodus of between 1 million and 2 million people, a demanding inflow of former refugees for voluntary repatriation and a traumatized surviving population.

He said the new Government was faced with the challenge of rehabilitating a war-ravaged economy, reviving basic social services, coping with the wreckage of genocide, stabilizing a fragile political alliance and warding off military threats from exiled soldiers of the former regime. "The new regime, armed with courage, hope and commitment, has embarked on rebuilding the public service."

Owing to the exodus of the former regime, Rwanda had an entirely new civil service work force, he said. While it was relatively easy to fill the lower levels of the service, filling the middle and higher levels was more difficult. The emerging public service was made up of civil servants with diverse backgrounds, which must be harmonized. Further, the inherited public service practices were based on patrimonialism, which ensured loyalty to the ministers but not competence or cost-effectiveness.

It was envisaged that the Rwanda public service should be small and cost-effective and driven by clear objectives, he said. Past practices of discrimination against women must be addressed, and appointments should be made on a merit basis, without respect to extraneous factors. It should be imbued with an ethic of service to the people, and all its activities should be characterized by transparency and accountability.

The ghosts of the genocide hung over Rwanda like a fog which must be cleared if development issues were to be effectively addressed, he said. Measures were being taken to that end. Since the internal capacity of Rwanda's public sector had been a casualty of war and genocide, external assistance was a necessity. He called on the United Nations system to redouble its efforts in providing that assistance.

IMRE VEREBELYI, Government Commissioner for Public Administration of Hungary, said that Hungary was a European country in transition from the previous totalitarian, centralized, one-party system. It was currently undergoing "an administrative revolution, rather than a simple reform".

This administrative revolution focused on the changes of basic functions, role and structure of public administration. The institutional

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side of change was underlined and emphasized, while the operational side had been "rather pushed into the background", he stated.

Hungary became the first country in central and eastern Europe to establish a new type of local and central public administration. The new system supported appropriately the fast development of the bases of market economy and the rule of law. However, the experience of the last five years revealed several deficiencies which should be corrected sooner or later. Some of these problems included the imprecision of the basic framework of the new system, and the fact that the best skilled experts had left the service in some fields.

After this first stage, Hungary was now preparing a reform of public administration, the delegate continued. New emphasis was now placed on managerial questions such as simplification, de-bureaucratization, marketization and result-oriented and performance-evaluated public management. The delegate pointed out that all three aspects of the process -- the managerial, the legal and the democratic aspects of public administration -- were all important. It was simply a question of "harmonizing" these aspects, he said.

Long-term and short-term objectives of the present reform could be reached through adopting several different methods, he said. Two methods were mentioned: the administrative methods, such as deregulation, decentralization, coordination of independent systems; and the market economy solutions and methods, including cost-benefit analysis, internal contracting and negotiating, tenders, privatization of public services, contracting out and others.

Hungary shared the views expressed by the majority of delegates, and supported the draft resolution. The main proposal, the official noted, followed the same lines and major trends as the 21 proposals of the Hungarian reform programme, he concluded.

JOSEPH CASSAR (Malta) stressed the important role played by public administrations in promoting economic growth and sustainable development. There had been unprecedented political, economic and technological changes in recent years, which also impacted on public administrations. The United Nations played a pivotal role as a clearinghouse and service-oriented catalyst for governments to improve their public management capacities.

Upon independence in 1964, Malta's public service had played a key role in the transition to statehood, he said. It had contributed to the conversion of Malta's economy from one based on the presence of a military base to one based on industry, tourism, commercial ship-repair and agriculture. That process of economic change was accompanied by reform in other sectors as well.

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The second phase of Malta's post-independence development saw a growth in direct government intervention in the economy, through the setting-up of a number of parastatal industries and an intensification of regulation.

With the change of administration in 1987, the present Government had instituted a broad programme of political, social and economic reforms, he said. In 1988, a public services reform commission was established. Its initiatives included rethinking existing organizational structures; revising legislation; introducing information technology; undertaking initiatives for the management of change; using local government to enhance citizen empowerment; revamping human resource practices; instituting a new salary structure; and introducing a code of ethnics for all public officers.

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For information media. Not an official record.