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.


Executive summary

Since 2007, the OECD has undertaken a substantial and growing body of analytical work under the aegis of its “Making Reform Happen” (MRH) project, which seeks to better understand both the obstacles to reform that governments face in different policy domains and the most effective ways of overcoming them. This volume presents some of the findings that have so far emerged from ongoing work within the context of MRH. Its principal aim is to see how an understanding of past reform experiences may be of use to policy makers seeking to design, adopt and implement reforms in the years to come. The chapters that follow examine the particular challenges to reform and explore possible ways to meet those challenges in nine different fields of public policy: competition and market opening; pensions and labour markets; tax policy; environmental protection; education; health care; public administration; regulatory policy and fiscal consolidation. They reflect the experiences of the OECD and its member countries in each domain, with reference to both OECD-wide trends and specific cases, in the belief that a better understanding of past successes and failures should enhance prospects for better design and implementation of future reforms.


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