The MENA-OECD Initiative supports public sector reform in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region. Since its inception in 2003/4, there has been continuous policy action in MENA countries to improve and enhance institutions for good governance. This report offers a perspective on the progress made over the last five years. Its content reflects the initiative’s approach: presenting country case studies in key areas of reform (listed in Annex A), and outlining common characteristics as well as specific circumstances. The case study methodology intends to offer policy makers a narrative that brings alive the dynamic process of reform. What emerges is a realistic, nuanced assessment of opportunities, challenges and institutional frameworks for public sector reform in the MENA region so far.
Effective governments delivering sound public policies and high quality public services are pre-conditions for stronger, fairer and cleaner economies. This first report on the progress of governance reform in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) shows that governments in this region have embarked on an ambitious modernisation process of their public institutions, paving the way for development and sustainable economic growth. The OECD has played a significant role in facilitating these reforms, through the MENA-OECD Initiative established in 2005.
The strategic orientation and thematic coverage of this report was defined in 2009 by the Steering Group of the MENA-OECD Governance Programme under the chairmanship of Ahmed Darwish, Egyptian Minister of State for Administrative Development and Ambassador Chris Hoornaert, Belgium’s Permanent Representative at the OECD. The following thematic regional working groups of the MENA-OECD Governance Programme discussed the report’s key findings and case studies: the Working Group on Civil Service and Integrity (chaired by Azzedine Diouri, Morocco; Efkan Ala, Turkey and Spain); the Working Group on E-Government and Administrative Simplification (chaired by Ahmad bin Humaidan, United Arab Emirates; Vincenzo Schioppa, Italy; and Yeong-man Mok, Korea); the Working Group on the Governance of Public Finance (chaired by Hany Dimian, Egypt; and Mårten Blix, Sweden); and the Working Group on Regulatory Reform, Public Service Delivery and Public Private Partnerships (chaired by Zuhair M’Dhaffar, Minister delegated to the Prime Minister for Civil Service, Tunisia; George Redling, Canada; Luigi Carbone, Italy; and Jeroen Nijland, the Netherlands).
Abbreviations and Acronyms
Over the past five years the MENA region has made a strong commitment to the reform of public governance. What have been the driving forces behind these reforms? Many MENA governments cite the need to attract investment and support economic growth as their primary motivation, based on growing recognition that weak public governance can pose a major barrier to private sector growth. Dissatisfaction with the comparatively weak growth performance of the region compared to other developing regions has also fuelled this response. Other governments have cited the need to combat corruption and state-building objectives as primary drivers for their comprehensive governance reform programme. The growing use of international rankings and greater collaboration with international conventions (such as World Trade Organisation membership) have also highlighted areas of governance needing attention, motivating and assisting governments to take action on a broad front.
Overall Strategies for Public Governance Reform in the MENA Region
This chapter examines the overall strategies that MENA governments have adopted to pursue reform, drawing on the rich experience contained in the nine chapters that follow. The review concludes that in each of the policy areas examined, governments have applied different strategies to advance the reform agenda, with differing results. While the review refrains from generalising about such a diverse region, it shows that reform paths involving consultation with internal and external stakeholders, experimentation to test innovation, and then a gradual, decentralised approach to implementation tend to outperform top-down, centralised and non-participatory approaches. An overall finding from the case studies is that value-based methods, such as developing codes of conduct, have made a contribution where combined with consultation and including stakeholders in implementation. Sustained leadership and determination in the face of the inevitable barriers have been key to success in the MENA, as in other regions.
Public Employment and Reform of Human Resources Management in MENA Countries
This chapter discusses how the countries of the MENA region are moving from traditional personnel management systems, weakly professionalised and routine-driven, towards integrated human resources management strategies using performance-based tools. To support this change, most of the MENA countries have also revised their civil service legal framework in the past few years or are in the process of doing so. The public administration is still seen as the employer of first and last resort, particularly in countries struggling to create jobs for young market entrants. At the same time, MENA governments shape new HRM rules to favour private sector job creation so as to reduce reliance on the government as the major employer. This chapter presents the case of Bahrain, Egypt and Morocco to illustrate how reform efforts are mainly driven by the need to build more sustainable and responsive public workforce policies.
Public Finance Management Trends in the MENA Region
Sustainable public finance is a major governance challenge for MENA and OECD countries alike. Many countries are launching reforms in financial governance. This chapter scrutinises two interrelated and ambitious reform strands in public finance for most countries in the MENA region: i) adopting a medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) and a programme structure for the expenditures budget; and ii) using a performance budgeting framework for designing and carrying out improvements in service delivery and targeting. The chapter presents a global view of these reforms, and focuses on four case studies to demonstrate how reform initiatives have progressed from plan to realisation: creating a regional Public Finance Training Institute (PFTI) in Egypt, eliminating subsidies in Jordan, implementing a performance-based budget reform in Morocco, and switching to a dynamic debt management system in Tunisia.
Enhancing Integrity in Public Administration
Fighting corruption in the public sector has become a frontline issue in MENA countries over the past five years. One driving factor has been a shift in the mindset of governments from admitting the existence of corruption to recognising that corruption hinders economic and social development, distorts markets and competition and undermines the legitimacy and credibility of governments. A second driver has been the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), ratified between 2004 and 2009 by a large number of countries in the MENA region. The ratification of this international binding agreement has pushed MENA countries to adopt anti-corruption and integrity measures. These mainly focus on reforming the legislative and institutional framework and reinforcing a culture of integrity in the civil service. This chapter uses three case studies from Jordan, Morocco, and Yemen to illustrate MENA countries’ achievements in this field.
Ensuring High Quality Regulation
Regulation is a crucial instrument for economic and social development. Efforts to improve regulatory quality have been a central part of governance reform across the MENA region. MENA countries have improved legislative drafting capacities in recognition of their role in improving regulation. Given the volume of current regulatory activity, political and institutional commitment is pivotal to improve the quality of regulation in general, and legislative drafting capacities in particular. The four case studies presented in this chapter explore the legislative drafting process, identify guidelines to ensure technical and procedural consistency in drafting, and outline training activities and programmes for legislative drafters. The experiences highlighted in Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian National Authority and Tunisia call attention to several positive initiatives in: i) policy development; ii) drafting, developing and managing the stock of legislation; and iii) support for drafting. The case studies illustrate some approaches that can be encouraged more widely within the MENA region.
Cutting the Red Tape
Excessive administrative burdens increase transaction costs in the market, impede the competitiveness of firms, limit initiative and encourage an informal economy. While administrative procedures are needed to collect information and implement public policy, streamlining them makes life easier for citizens and businesses. For these reasons, MENA governments are cutting red tape by implementing various administrative simplification policies, aiming to improve the regulatory framework, streamline administrative procedures and reduce paperwork. Generally, administrative simplification activities focus on four approaches: i) legal review and improvement; ii) process re-engineering and organisational streamlining; iii) the use of information and communication technologies (ICT); and iv) broader access to information and improved transparency. This chapter identifies important elements of administrative simplification that are improving governance in the MENA region. It briefly describes several promising initiatives underway in Arab countries, with a special focus on three cases from Bahrain, Lebanon and Tunisia.
Achievements in E-Government
The use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for government activities is not new in the MENA region. Concerted efforts to apply these technologies to public services and for improving governance practices have become widespread over the past five years. While many different motives have driven e-government adoption in MENA region, the common denominators are the perceived needs to improve public service quality, to strengthen administrative control, and to join the international mainstream. E-government proves to be a privileged gateway to a wide range of public sector reforms, and the MENA region offers a very broad scope of experiences. This chapter highlights the experience of countries like Egypt, Morocco and Jordan, which are primarily concerned with basic implementation of e-government, and countries like Bahrain and Dubai which are applying e-government good practice quite widely to expand services to citizens and to foster inward investment and growth.
Ensuring the Efficient Use of Public-private Partnerships in MENA Countries
Public-private partnerships represent a real opportunity for the countries of the MENA region, which often have high infrastructure requirements but low quality public service performance. The growing trend towards public-private partnering is being driven by citizens’ demands for better quality services. An efficient use of PPPs in MENA countries would help governments to balance the budget and to improve the effectiveness of public service delivery. Given that PPPs are usually complex long-term contracts of high value, they will influence public services in the MENA region for the foreseeable future. Through the case studies of Tunisia and Jordan, this chapter shows how governments in the region are implementing ambitious PPP policies, focusing on public decisionmaking, adaptation of PPP legal frameworks and strategies to strengthen administrative capacities for PPP contract design, negotiation and implementation. These two cases demonstrate that PPPs can accelerate improvements to public infrastructure, better service quality, and economic growth.
Addressing Gender in Public Management
Achieving gender equity has historically been seen as a particularly difficult challenge in the MENA region. However, within the broader reform framework, several MENA countries have analysed their institutions and processes from a gender perspective and have started to address gender imbalances in decision-making. This involves considering the different needs of men and women in setting policies and spending patterns, and implementing mechanisms to ensure equal treatment in public institutions and before the law. This chapter outlines progress being made in the region to address gender concerns in public management. The case studies selected, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, show how some countries are using consolidated strategies and whole-of-government approaches to make governance more gender-sensitive. Egypt and Morocco have both developed interesting strategies for promoting gender equality in the public sector, while Tunisia offers a noteworthy approach to enhancing women’s status in society.
The Challenges of Water Governance in MENA Countries
In a global context of rarefaction of water resources, climate change and economic recession, many challenges can be overcome through efficient governance. Peculiarly, there is a need for better co-ordination among actors in charge of water policy design and implementation at central and sub-central government levels. Despite the diversity of national systems, MENA countries’ experiences in reforming water policies have underlined common concerns undermining the efficient implementation of water policies, i.e. unclear, fragmented and overlapping responsibilities; lack of capacity and financing; and insufficient stakeholders’ participation. Even with the need for locally tailored policies, a regional shared vision is required to benefit from common understanding. This chapter analyses water governance challenges in the MENA region and discusses the reforms underway in four countries in terms of regulation and private sector participation (Egypt), river basin organisation and citizen’s involvement (Morocco), development of a legal framework (Palestinian National Authority) and integrated water resources management (Tunisia).
This review demonstrates that the governments of the MENA region are making progress towards more effective, transparent and accountable governance. While some governments are moving more quickly than others, each state has adopted measures to improve public financial management, to build a more productive civil service, to strengthen the rule of law, and to improve policy-making capacities. In doing so they have taken on several areas that until recently were not even open to discussion, such as integrity, gender equality and active consultation with citizens.
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