International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2

By Jay M. Shafritz | Go to book overview

productivity reform movement stresses efficiency to increase government productivity.

These efficiency-oriented reform movements embrace the notion of downsizing government as doable and desirable. Downsizing reduces government expenditures to ameliorate fiscal stress on government and the burden on the taxpayer (cutback management), to make government more flexible and adaptable to customer concerns (reinventing government), and to improve the input-output ratio of government programs (public productivity). The solution each espouses in some fashion is to cut back government, for different reasons: financial stress and excessive expenditures relative to revenues (the fiscal stress movement); lack of customer responsiveness (the reinventing government movement); and governmental inefficiency (the public productivity movement).

These reform movements strive to make public sector management more like private sector management, in many instances. They advocate that government officials use techniques that are used in the private sector, including using cost centers, making customers aware of benefits as well as costs of government services through public relations (advertising), developing marketing strategies to monitor customer satisfaction and preferences, encouraging the search for innovative revenue sources, incorporating competition into purchasing and wherever else possible, and holding the line on expenditure.

The efficiency-based reform movements, including cutback management, encourage privatization and dispersing services when doing so takes advantage of competition to lower costs and increase productivity and efficiency. These movements share a view that the private sector is more efficient than the public sector when the private sector fosters competition, and sometimes even when competition is absent, because the private sector labors under fewer bureaucratic rules and procedures than the public sector. These movements also share a view that government regulation frequently produces red tape and advocate reducing the number and complexity of government regulations.

The history of reform movements is one of cycles or "waves." Each reform goes through several clearly identifiable stages. First, a legitimate problem reaches public consciousness, such as the fiscal stress of cities in the 1970s and growing federal deficits. Second, reform consultants and advisers recognize the problem and develop an inventory or procedures and responses to deal with the problem. In some reform movements, such as the zero-based budgeting movement, the solutions are a specific procedure to be followed in all situations, in a uniform approach.

In other reform movements, including the efficiency reform movements of fiscal stress and cutback management, reinventing government, and public productivity, the reforms are an inventory of possible strategies, some of which may be adopted in any setting. More discretion is allowed the policyrnaker who must pick and choose among suggested solutions.

Third, given the rigidity of institutional arrangements within the public sector, the consultants who advocate the reform oversell its benefits to achieve some adoptions. Fourth, the reform recedes in importance and public consciousness as economic conditions change, disillusionment over the degree of success sets in, and other issues rise in importance on the public sector. The problems that fostered the reform movement initially, however, have likely not been permanently fixed. Fifth, the concepts of the previous reform movement, reworked and shrouded in different rhetoric, reappear in the next wave of reform that holds the same underlying precepts. Thus, the fiscal stress and cutback management movement of the 1970s anticipated and laid the foundation for the reinventing government movement and also incorporated ideas from the productivity movement. The problem of fiscal stress, especially for large cities whose financial exigencies fostered cutback management reform movement, still remains.

MARCIA LYNN WHICKER


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Levine, Charles H., 1980. Managing Fiscal Stress: The Crisis in the Public Sector. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House.

Rubin, Irene S., 1990. The Politics of Public Budgeting. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House.

Smith, Wade S., 1979. The Appraisal of Municipal Credit Risk. New York: Moody's Investors Service.

Whicker, Marcia Lynn, and Raymond A. Moore. 1988. Making America Competitive: Policies for a Global Future. New York: Praeger.

FLEXTIME. One of a number of alternate work schedules (AWS) used by governments and by the private sector, designed to allow more flexibility to the employee in setting his or her hours of work during the workday. Flextime still requires the 40 hour workweek; however, it allows employees some choice in the hour they arrive at work and the hour they depart work in a typical working day.

The world's governments have never arrived at a universally accepted workday schedule because the start time and ending time of workdays are influenced strongly by national cultural norms. The fast-paced workday of industrialized nations is still contrasted with the more leisurely paced workday of other countries, sometimes filled with the lunch-to-midafternoon break and later quitting hours.

As the composition of today's workforce changes, new and innovative ideas are required to deal with the changing demands of today's workers. Alternate work schedules allow workers more freedom and hold the promise to

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International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2
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