Making Reform Happen

Lessons from OECD Countries

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OECD countries have made significant reform progress in recent decades, in fields as diverse as competition policy, health care and the environment. How have they done it? And why have reforms advanced in some places and stalled in others? This collection of essays analyses the reform experiences of the 30 OECD countries in nine major policy domains in order to identify lessons, pitfalls and strategies that may help foster policy reform in the future. While taking full account of the tremendous differences in the political and institutional settings in which these reforms were undertaken, the authors highlight a number of common challenges and potential solutions that hold good across both countries and issue areas. They show that the scope for cross-national policy learning is enormous.

The importance of such reform lessons is all the greater in the wake of the global financial and economic crisis. As OECD governments confront the challenge of trying to restore public finances to health without undermining the recovery, they will need to pursue a careful mix of fiscal policies and growth-enhancing structural reforms. Designing, adopting and implementing such a policy mix will require the crafting of effective reforms and effective strategies for implementing them.



Enabling regulatory reform

This chapter examines the role of institutions in the promotion of regulatory reform, exploring the link between the existence of specific institutional arrangements and the endorsement of timely and appropriate practices of regulatory management. It highlights how the widespread use of regulatory impact assessment has facilitated the introduction of mechanisms of systematic consultation with those affected by reforms. The chapter then discusses the role played by regulatory management in improving the overall functioning of the government and in ensuring the coherence of its action, thus providing a wider perspective for the definition of reform opportunities. The chapter’s last section provides an overview of the literature developed to explain the importance of international organisations in supporting reforms, underlining in this framework the specific methods used by the OECD. In particular, it draws attention to the role of the OECD in improving the regulatory environment in member countries. It emphasises that the OECD does not rely on conditionality in order to promote reform but on “soft methods of co-ordination”, which represent a slower, but not necessarily less effective method of disseminating best practice and supporting the timely adoption of reform initiatives.


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