In the last two decades, fundamental changes have been transforming societies all over the world. These changes include the development of a global economy, the end of the Cold War, and the rapid progress and widespread adoption of information technology. The public sector too is being transformed, leading to the emergence of what has been called the New Public Management. This chapter will outline the major characteristics of NPM and examine its influence in the US and Canada. The third major North American country, Mexico, will be discussed briefly. The presidential election cycles of the US and Mexico, as well as Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien's choice of an election date, have all coincided, with Mexico having held its national elections in July 2000 and both the US and Canada having held theirs four months later. This coincidence provides a common point of departure for speculation about the future of NPM initiatives in the three countries. The chapter will also make reference to New Zealand and the United Kingdom, the two countries widely regarded as the pioneers of NPM. The chapter begins with a definition of NPM. It then examines the pressures to transform the public sector, goes on to discuss the resulting changes, and concludes with a discussion of the prospects for future public sector reform.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) observed in 1995 that 'a new paradigm for public management has emerged, aimed at fostering a performance-oriented culture in a less centralized public sector.' The report noted that implementation of the new paradigm was far from complete, and varied from country to country (OECD 1995:8). At about the same time, the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM), an organization for public administration practitioners and academics in the fifty-four countries of the British Commonwealth, held its inaugural conference. As rapporteur at that conference, I summarized a set of common themes in the experience of public sector reform in this diverse group of countries and outlined the major characteristics of NPM: