Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Leadership Challenges in a Small Society: The Case of Trinidad and Tobago

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Leadership Challenges in a Small Society: The Case of Trinidad and Tobago

Article excerpt

Trinidad and Tobago is a small country comprising of 1.3 million people with two majority racial groups, descendants of African and East Indian people. The article suggests that since NPM reform is focused primarily on increasing productivity in the public sector it is understandable that there will be a renewed thrust in converting "administrators" into "leaders" and "managers". On the completion of this "transformation," it was hoped that 'managers should accordingly be given the freedom to manage. (5) In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, there has been an ongoing attempt to train senior public administrators. In a survey conducted in 2008, however, it was found that this attempt to move away from a "Weberian" style of administration into a new "managerial" mode has attained only partial success.

Under the old "Weberian-type" administrative model, two basic characteristics persisted, namely, the tendency to depend on the leader for guidance, direction and support and the willingness to accept the superior station of the leader. (6) This kind of orientation was understandable given the arrangement or structure that persisted within the wider public sectors during the period 1920s to the 1980s. It was a unique form of administration that was first proposed by Max Weber. It should be recalled that Weber, a sociologist, suggested that the "ideal" arrangement or what he termed "bureaucracy" should be in the form of a hierarchical arrangement or pyramid. According to Dunleavy and Hood, (7) this traditional public administration was based on two major doctrines. The first doctrine emphasized the public sector as a distinctive domain, distinct and separate from the private sector. Under this doctrine, civil servants enjoyed the status of professionals working within a closed career system isolated from the private labor market. The second domain implied that a number of general procedural regulations should restrict the discretionary power of leading civil servants. The regulations were designed to maintain neutral and impartial treatment and to prevent personal or particular interests from finding expression.

By contrast, New Public Management which was first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1979 was a distinct shift away from Weber's bureaucratic arrangement. The new paradigm called for a flatter arrangement within public sector offices and also one critical element of the new discipline was that managers should be allowed to manage or use their initiative without being burdened by rules and regulations. The new discipline called for a new kind of administrator and thus the idea of transformation from an administrator to a "leader" took hold.

Yet, while the rhetoric for the New Public Management was adopted widely, many countries around the world found it difficult in to bring about the transformation required. In Norway, for instance, Olsen suggested that there was a cultural incompatibility between international criticism of the public sector and the Norwegian model of an interventionist, planning state. (8) The Norwegian model, he argued, embodied the belief in a large public sector under tight political control as a suitable means for promoting the common good. It was predicted, then, that because of its strong socialist tradition, complex systems of governance that balance different tasks and mutual trust between political and administrative leaders, the transformation process would be slow. In the case of many developing countries such as Ghana, Jamaica, Singapore, Tanzania and Uganda, also, it was found that the experiments to introduce New Public Management reforms were recent and their scale was modest. (9) In reality, administration in many of these countries remained highly centralized and in a large number of cases all personnel decisions was still handled by a central department. Thus, to a large extent, the experience of reform in Trinidad and Tobago is no different. What makes the case of Trinidad and Tobago unique, however, is the composition of its society, what M G Smith and others referred to as a "plural" or divided society. …

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