Measuring Government Activity

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The size and the economic significance of the public sector make it a major contributor to economic growth and social welfare. The goods and services government provides, its redistributive and regulatory powers, and how those are exercised affect the way business is conducted and people live their lives in every country. Citizens are entitled to understand how government works and how public revenues are used. This book provides a significant contribution to developing a coherent, reliable system for data collection and analysis. It summarises the available OECD and other international data on public sector inputs and processes. It also examines the existing internationally comparable data on outputs and outcomes, and recommends new approaches to measurement.




The collection and publication of public management data in the OECD could usefully be replicated in non-OECD middle and high income countries for two main reasons. First, there is a potential direct benefit. The public sector reform efforts of these countries can be intrinsically similar to those of the OECD, focusing on second order challenges which build on an entrenched discipline in the behaviour of civil servants and an organisational culture of following the rules.2 The possibility of benchmarking themselves against key developments in OECD member countries is likely to be attractive, providing a spur to country efforts on public sector improvement. Although middle income countries, by definition, have higher per capita incomes, a third of the world’s poor (people living on less than USD$1 a day) live in middle income countries.3 Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the public sector in these settings is an essential component of poverty reduction.


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