Quote of the week
“…governments bear responsibility for producing public value.”
— World Economic Forum
If governments are going to remain credible, they have to provide value. And there’s little doubt that the elements of the traditional value proposition for the public sector are coming under scrutiny.
Take the UK. There, as part of the Big Society project, Prime Minister Cameron is “moving government from default position of central design and service delivery to citizen-driven partnerships.” For example, he is considering enshrining the right to choice in public service delivery in legislation, and encouraging civil servants to form what he calls “mutuals,” organizations of civil servants to provide services competitively.
Then of course, there is the US. Nearly all factions, especially the right, have convinced everyone that big government is a bad thing; that by definition, therefore, government should do less. Yet there seems to be little serious debate about what deserves spending and what doesn’t.
In Toronto, the mayor has announced that there will be layoffs and cutbacks to services, and the issue of what the municipal government should provide as core services has degenerated into a shouting match. Not much reasoned discussion there, either.
Federally, public debate has not gone that far, but there is little doubt that many politicians and citizens are questioning the notion that government, on its own, can come up with all the policy answers and provide services efficiently.
On the policy front, there are ongoing ‘wicked’ issues that cross governments and sectors. Policy challenges increasingly fall into two categories: those that must be dealt with immediately, and those that are so complex they require consultations with citizens and other sectors.
On the service delivery front, many are questioning whether governments are the only way of delivering services to citizens.
In addressing these issues, governments and politicians have to ask themselves: what really is government here to do? What, in other words, is the value proposition for government in the 21st century?
I’ll be taking a brief summer break. But Vic Pakalnis, a long time member of our editorial advisory board, will step into these shoes for the next three weeks.