THE AFRICAN GOVERNANCE CRISIS (2/4)
“Since the late 1980s, many African countries have been reforming their civil services (…) Unfortunately, these reforms have not been very successful because of faulty diagnosis and prognosis. They have failed to tackle the major problems confronting African civil services.” (1)
Before the analysis of African public administration reforms can be undertaken, one must remember that the landscape of Africa’s civil service was not build from scratch. With its independence from British colonial rule, countries like Ghana inherited a system of public management that fulfilled tasks of “assuring the continuity of the state and maintaining law and order” (2). However, the civil service was doomed to re-orientate after independence in order to follow national interests instead of the ones of former colonial rulers. The African Development Bank thus asserts that an enormous expansion of the civil service took place until the grave economic decline at the end of the 1970ies leading to a full-scale development crisis (2). This is when reforms of the civil services this paper aims to concentrate on were launched. Ghana shall be utilized as a hands-on example in this work, because it may be identified as a reform-committed country (2) that demonstrates strong efforts to rehabilitate its public service despite tremendous economic shortfalls. Therefore, a lack of commitment can be dismissed as a possible inhibiting factor to a successful development of Ghanaian public administration.
The goal of the following chapter is thus to properly understand why policies from the 1980ies aiming at the economic stabilization and development of African states such as Ghana have shown little success (1). One of these policies is the liberalization African markets (3). Taking this as the initial point of this work’s analysis, one is more likely to comprehend the nature of reforms launched during the 1980ies. The question whether the latter actually inhibited or actually reversed Ghanaian administrative, hence ultimately economic progress shall now be at focus.
NPM-Waves in Africa
Influenced by donor countries providing the necessary financial support for reforms (4), the ideal of New Public Management began gaining ground as a leitmotif for reforms in Ghana and other SSA countries. In general one can follow Bamidele Olowu in asserting that “African civil services [were] originally modeled on their metropolitan precursors.” (1). Although New Public Management does not translate into the same dogmatically closed catalogue of instruments in every country, in this work NPM shall be understood as a business interpretation of administrative action, hence a trend toward micro economic behavior in public management.
According to Peter Evans, this phase of reforms in developing countries may be seen as market-centered (5). After decades of viewing the state as the ultimate instrument of development, reforms in the 1980ies were initiated under the sentiment of negative experiences with the central government, hence a thrive for a reduction of the state.
As mentioned before, Ghana like many other African countries experienced a great expansion of the civil service sector after the 1960ies (1). After the global oil crisis, African economic decline and the ideal of a business-oriented reform wave of the public administration, this growth of the state was to be ended (2). Donor countries provided African states with the necessary financial aid for the cutback of civil services (4). To make this more accessible, one must look at some exact data, in this case from Ghana.
The shrinking of the Ghanaian public administration was tackled through a myriad of reforms steps. The most important ones for the analysis in this paper are as follows. A grand movement of organizational restructuring led to a reorganization of government ministries eliminating four agencies during the reform efforts. Hence, seemingly unnecessary agencies were cut. Another method, which was very well received by donor countries, was Ghanaian retrenchment. The core goal of this policy may be seen in the cutback of unneeded civil servants in order to shrink the countries’ public administration system. Therefore, Ghana reduced its civil servants from 131 089 in 1990 to 80 000 in 1995 (1).
Despite the reduction of civil servants, the payment of the latter was to be increased. Therefore Ghana foresaw decompressing wages and providing higher salaries for public managers. While information on the actual increase varies depending on the source, it is safe to say that actual salaries in Ghana did not rise significantly. Although still higher than for many African countries, the increase during the reforms in Ghana was modest (2).
These three aspects of Ghanaian public sector reform are sufficient for the following line of argumentation. However it shall be noted that Ghana was also at the forefront in regard to privatization and decentralization of public services (1). Due to its British past and organizational influence, reforms like the latter were faster implemented than in other African countries (1).
Evaluation of the NPM Reforms in Africa
The crucial part now lies in the evaluation of the New Public Management reforms and their effect on policy-making capabilities of the African civil service.
As mentioned above, the size of the Ghanaian public administration was decreased in regard to the number of agencies as well as the number of employees. Donor countries favored this approach due to the conviction that a smaller public sector would work more efficiently as for instance experienced in the UK (3). Moreover, the state’s involvement was seen as one of the core problems in developing countries after the 1970ies (5), thus the idea of a roll back of the state was widely popular (6).
However, the African civil service was never abnormally big in comparison to other regions (1).
Figure 1: Government Employment as a Percentage of Population (various recent years)
Source: Olowu, 1999, p. 9.
As visible in the above chart, the central as well as the local government in sub-Saharan Africa is much smaller than the OECD average. While the observation that there was an enormous growth of the latter may very well be correct, this must be viewed as a post- colonial necessity. It seems rather logical that a growing economy must increase its public administration capacities. In regard to the number of public employees, the UN states that the African public administration “is significantly understaffed in professional and managerial areas, and perhaps overstaffed in semi-skilled and unskilled areas.” (4).
Therefore, one must conclude that a reduction of Ghana’s civil service at all levels was contra-intuitive and defeating the purpose of a more effective public administration.
The retrenchment in the civil service in general has proven to be more costly than expected in the beginning. More precisely, the research on the proper identification of cost saving possibilities mostly exceeded the actual ex-post cost saving (1).
Ghana is once again a perfect example for this miscalculation as the country actually encountered cumulative losses as a result from downsizing in the 1980ies. Although Ghana has been classified as a committed reformer, the former head of Ghanaian civil service, Robert Dodoo asserted his dissatisfaction in regard to the reform movement. According to him, the reason for the lack of improvement of the country’s development lay in the “donor time-tables, agendas and conditionalities” (7). While external support was necessary and vital for an improvement of the African civil service the provision of money came with unreasonably short-term expectancies. It does not seem surprising that a country in danger of loosing all monetary support decides to hustle through a reform and risk less successful implementation instead of the loss of crucial financial aid.
There are two core weaknesses to be identified after this ex-post evaluation of the first part of African civil service reforms: (1) the way reform was embarked upon, along with (2) the goal of the reform.
The first point has been made quite clear with the previous statements of Robert Dodoo. The pressure for success coming from donor countries was in no way beneficial for the improvement of the Ghanaian civil service. As one of many, Ghana had agreed to reduce the cost of the public sector and implement questionable structural adjustment programs: “This was an explicit condition for financial support from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.” (2). Although the size of the civil service was reduced, the results in cost saving were modest.
But why reduce the African public administration at all? As demonstrated with the graph, the African civil service was in no way bigger than ones from many other states. While it was indeed expanding after the colonial rulers granted independence, this was a vital step toward a functioning economy and a sustainable development of countries like Ghana. State and market building are mutually dependent; hence a strong state in combination with a functioning market could be seen as the more adequate policy for Africa at this delicate time (3).
The World Bank itself states that
‘An effective state is vital for the provision of the goods and services – and the rules and institutions – that allow markets to flourish and people to lead healthier, happier lives. Without sustainable development, both economic and social is impossible.’ (8)
The problem of the 1980ies believe that effectiveness would be achieved through downsizing is made clear in the above. However, it now becomes tangible that the effects of the 1980ies reforms may very well have resulted in lacking capabilities to implement crucial policies for the countries’ development, i.e. the liberalization of markets. If there are too few agencies and employees to oversee the realization of liberalization, this process is doomed to fail.
The third reform step that shall be evaluated here is the alteration of salaries in the civil service. While there was indeed some increase in the salaries of civil servants in Ghana, they are still stunningly low (1). When being confronted with unattractive employment opportunities, the reaction of workers is universally comparable. High-qualified human capital either leaves the country in order to find better-paid jobs or the employee opens him – or herself to corruption. A report by the IMF shows a strong correlation between wages in public administration relative to wages in manufacturing: “It is estimated that government wages needed to be 2×8 (…) times higher to make corruption negligible.” (The Economist 1997, Reasons to be venal).
Corruption is another major weakness of African public administration and must be seen as another NPM-influenced repercussion (1). Peter Evans asserts in this regard that methods of personalism and plundering at the top levels of African civil service destroy all possibilities of rule-governed behavior in the lower levels of public administration (5). More precisely, in order to make a living less qualified officials go along the example set at the top.
Another fatal repercussion of corruption for these countries is not only the waste of financial resources, but also the cancelation of international aid programs as a punishment (5). Weak public administration with corrupt officials therefore results in a vicious circle for the whole country.
After evaluating the three vital reforms in Ghana, the downsizing of the public sector as well as an insufficient rise of civil servant salaries, in the following, this paper aims at observing some of the latest reform movements. By doing so, the goal is to make a recommendation as to where the development of the Ghanaian and African civil service should be headed in order to guarantee more capable ways of implementing policies for an improvement of the countries’ development.
· The African Governance Crisis (1/4) · A sift inventory of Africa’s development problems
· The African Governance Crisis (3/4) · Rehabilitating the African Civil Service
· Millennium Development Goals: Fragile states claim summit outcome off-target
(1) Olowu, B. (1999). Redesigning African Civil Service Reforms. In: The Journal of Modern African Studies 37, 1 (1999). Cambridge University Press.
(2) Adamolekun, L. (2005). Re-Orienting Public Management in Africa: Selected Issues and Some Country Experiences. In: African Development Bank – Economic Research Paper Series No. 81.
(3) Chaudhry, K. A. (1993). Myths of the Market and the Common History of Late Developers.
(4) United Nations. (2005). Public Administration and Development – Report of the
Secretary General, Sixtieth Session.
(5) Evans, P. (1995). The State as Problem and Solution: Predation, Embedded Autonomy, and Structural Change. In: Politics and Society.
(6) Goldsmith, M. J. & Page, E. C. (1998). Farewell to the British State? In: Public Sector Reform by Jan-Erik Lane. London: SAGE Publications.
(7) Dodoo, R. (1996). The Core Elements of Civil Service Reforms. In: African Journal of Public Administration and Management
(8) World Bank. (1997). World Development Report. New York: Oxford University Press