Some experience from reforms in East Asia 1
Most of the public sector reforms taking place across the globe these days seem to be construed within the paradigm of NPM (e.g. Hood 1991) first spearheaded in OECD countries since the late 1980s. Reinvention of government, made popular by Osborne and Gaebler (1993) and former US Vice President Al Gore's (1993) programme to streamline the US federal government, is now the buzz-word of administrative reforms everywhere. In Asia, for example, the Hong Kong government launched a public sector reform programme as early as 1989 (Finance Branch 1989; Cheung 1992), with much input from international management consultants. Taiwan's government announced an administrative renovation programme in 1993 and subsequently a government reinvention programme in 1998 (Wei 2000), all formulated in the latest NPM-speak. Even in socialist China, government restructuring, transformation of government functions, downsizing and civil service reform has formed part of the administrative reform programme since the 1980s, partly to cope with the needs of a new socialist market economy and partly to seek simpler administration and higher efficiency (Jiang, X. 1997).
It is tempting for observers of various national administrative reforms to consider them as an offshoot of worldwide trends and efforts under globalization which will eventually see the advent of a global convergence in the form of NPM (e.g. Kaboolian 1998). Whether or not NPM is considered to be in the ascendancy in Asia, as in OECD countries, depends on how the global NPM is operationalized for the sake of analysis of reforms undertaken in various countries. After all, NPM is more of an academic description of public sector reforms than the term actually used by governments.
Hood's (1991) classical definition of NPM identified the following elements: leaving managers 'free to manage'; performance standards and measurement; output controls; breaking up public sector entities into 'corporatized' units; competition through term contracts and public tendering; discipline and parsimony in resource use; and adoption of private sector management style.