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LESSONS:

Economic and Public Sector Reform Program

sector: Public Sector Management | country: Tonga | region: Pacific Islands

Especially in situations where the government’s capacity is poor, the design of the reform measures should be kept simple and extensive conditionalities should be avoided. The timeframe of the reform program should be realistic in balancing the government’s need to rapidly establish a track record in relation to the external funding community and the broader public on the one hand, and the program’s technical and political feasibility on the other. Moreover, providing sufficient resources for complementary institutionalchange and capacity building is indispensable.

Measures that promise relatively rapid progress should be prioritized to facilitateeffective communication of success stories to the public. Effective communication of the reformprogram’s rationale, objectives, and achievements is essential for maintaining public support,especially where an institutionalized participation mechanism does not exist.

The gap between domestic capabilities and skills requirements may be widened by theimportation of inappropriate techniques and technologies, so that reforms may not provedurable. At the same time, the involvement of strong, committed local consultants caneffectively help expand the government’s capacities to manage and coordinate the reformprocess.

The program has shown that strong government ownership of and commitment to aprogram with well-focused conditions can effectively support the reform process. By contrast,the program has also demonstrated the vulnerability of reform programs to the politicalenvironment, especially in conflict situations. This suggests that the level of commitment to aprogram loan is determined not only by the commitment of the government in power, but also byits ability to manage vested interests that wish to maintain the status quo (reform resistors) andthe overall political aspects of the reforms (for instance, displaced workers). Therefore, givensuch situations, carefully assessing and closely monitoring the political environment isimportant, including all supporting and resisting forces and the risks of a politically motivated interruption of the reform process, as well as assessing the capacity of the civil service and itsability to continue a reform program despite political upheavals. Extensive consultations amongpolitical factions and the broader public, including at the provincial level, are indispensable toensuring broadly based support for any reform program.

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