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.



Reform beyond the crisis

This chapter draws out some of the principal lessons that emerge from reform experiences in OECD countries. It seeks to identify both common patterns across policy domains and factors that appear to be specific to particular types of policy reform. The chapter begins with a consideration of the challenge of cross-country policy learning in an environment characterised by broadly similar reform challenges but widely differing reform contexts, a fundamental issue that confronts all the authors in this collection, as well as officials and policy makers in OECD countries who seek to learn from each other’s experiences. The discussion then turns to some of the cross-cutting lessons for policy makers that nevertheless seem to be emerging from the “Making Reform Happen” work. The chapter goes on to deal with specific policy domains, highlighting some of the main points that emerge from the individual chapters in this book. A further section explores the meaning of these findings in light of the global economic and financial crisis and looks at the challenge of reform after the crisis. The final set of issues addressed concerns the implications of these findings for the work of the OECD.


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