Governments need to rethink how they reward and motivate civil servants
THE French call them hauts fonctionnaires, the Germans Beamte im h?heren Dienst and the British, somewhat more economically, know them as “mandarins”. The senior echelons of civil services are a powerful arm of the state. They implement the reforms dreamed up by politicians, and design public services ranging from welfare systems to prisons. Compared with private-sector bosses, the bureaucrats who manage the public sector tend to be less well paid but have more cushioned lives, with more secure jobs and far less pressure to improve productivity. Now the mandarins face change.
There has long been taxpayer fury when big projects go awry. Berlin's new airport is three years overdue and predicted to cost 6 billion (8.1 billion), three times the original estimate. But voters, and thus politicians, are especially intolerant of civil-service inefficiency nowadays. One prompt is austerity. Another is technology, which is changing not only how public services are delivered—think of “massively open online courses” in education—but also the way they can be measured. Social networks enable users to grumble about hospital waiting-times and mathematics results. Perhaps the biggest pressure is the passing of time: private-sector workers are incredulous as to why civil servants should escape the creative destruction that has changed other offices around the world.
The reform of the public sector is a huge project, but people are at the centre of it. Government is a service industry, and there is a basic talent problem. A few civil services—Singapore's is the obvious example—compete with the private sector for the best graduates. But elsewhere even elite departments, such as the US Treasury and Britain's Foreign Office, struggle (or lose high-flyers quickly). The mandarins and their political masters need to change tack.
Too many civil servants, especially in continental Europe, swirl around a bureaucratic Gormenghast but rarely leave it. Nearly four-fifths of German senior public servants have been in public administration for more than two decades. The French state under Franois Hollande is governed by a caste of unsackable functionaries, resistant to reform. One reason many officials become stuck is their generous pension deals: making pensions portable should be a priority. But career structures also must adapt.
Most civil services still tend to be gerontocracies, where age and seniority are synonymous. New Zealand has dismantled the system of rigid hierarchies and pay-grades that spawned the likes of the phlegmatic Sir Humphrey in the BBC comedy “Yes Minister”. Instead, it appoints departmental chief executives in its ministries, who sign contracts to meet specific targets and can be dismissed if they fail. Singapore's civil servants are frequently sent out to private-sector jobs. Britain has appointed a senior figure from the oil business to run the agency that deals with large-scale state projects. The idea is that private-sector experience in areas such as contract management and negotiation can help avoid disasters like Berlin's airport.
All this appeals to right-wing politicians. But the corollary of better performance is higher pay. The British government's chief operating officer announced this week that he is leaving for a lucrative commercial job. Singapore, which runs a far leaner government than America, pays its best people 2m a year. No Republican congressman would tolerate that, which is foolish. The cost of higher salaries is offset by saving money on costly consultants to mop up failing projects.
There is one area where less change would be useful. To plan careers, you need a long-term strategy—and democracy throws up change every election. In Britain health-care officials talk about successive “re-disorganisations”. One reason for authoritarian Singapore's success is that its voters have miraculously always chosen the party founded by Lee Kuan Yew since he took control in 1959. Voters elsewhere are less obliging. New Zealand has tried to counter this by boosting the powers of a state-services commissioner, whose duties include one of lasting “stewardship”. That could be a useful model for elsewhere—especially America, where too many senior positions are filled by political appointees (who then take months to get confirmed by Congress). Mandarinates have their faults, but somebody needs to keep Leviathan working.
1.need to 需要
例句:Do not wait for good things to happen to you. You need to walk towards happiness.
2.tend to 倾向于；趋向
例句:We tend to meet up for lunch once a week.
3.compete with 竞赛；与竞争
例句:Schools should not compete with each other or attempt to poach pupils.
4.such as 例如；诸如
例句:Issues such as these were not really his concern.