SIGMA Papers

SIGMA (Support for Improvement in Governance and Management) is a joint initiative of the OECD and the EU, principally financed by the EU. SIGMA Papers is a series of specialised reports that are focused on particular issues in governance and management, such as expenditure control, administrative oversight, interministerial co-ordination, public procurement and public service management.

Available in French (see link below) and other languages.

English French

Management Challenges at the Centre of Government

Coalition Situations and Government Transitions

Nine central and eastern European countries — Albania, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and the Slovak Republic — were represented in Warsaw at the meeting of senior officials from centres of government, organised by the SIGMA Programme and held on 27 and 28 February 1997. Three European Union centres of government — Belgium, Germany, Greece — also took part in the work, as did experts from Canada, Denmark, France and Sweden. As their French counterparts had done in Paris the previous year, the host country officials described the broad lines of their organisation and informed participants about the major changes that had been made recently. In Poland, these come under the more general heading of the reform of state economic administration and result, at centre of government level, in the strengthening of the position of the Polish Prime Minister and a clearer demarcation of political and administrative responsibilities. Two topics had been selected for the meeting: “Policy-Making and Decision-Making in a Coalition System”, and “Managing Government Transitions”. The two issues were not chosen by accident: actual examples are to be found in all the countries participating in the SIGMA Programme, they are of direct interest to centres of government, and the problems they raise are comparable in nature. In the case of both topics, it is a question of reconciling the exigencies of democracy and efficiency. Democracy implies political pluralism and legitimises the principle that power can be held on an alternating basis. By the same token, however, it sows seeds of weakness or frailty in the functioning of a country’s institutions just when the process of transition requires governments to demonstrate firmness and continuity. A coalition government can find it difficult to speak with a single voice. When teams change too often, continuity can be jeopardised. These are the risks inherent in democracy and they have of course to be accepted, but it is also the role of centres of government to seek to minimise any negative effects they can have on the proper conduct of public policies.

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