NPM & Traditional Public Administration



Under the NPM, public sector decision making structures are so designed as to let managers manage. This was not so in traditional public administration. Under traditional public administration, it was “Administration’, in NPM, it is “Management”.

NPM stipulates that public servants should have to accept more personal accountability for the actions of their agencies in return for enhanced autonomy and flexibility to them. This is clearly a significant departure from the concept of “anonymous” bureaucracy in traditional public administration.

Traditional public administration is inward looking focusing primarily on its own organization; however NPM is more outward looking. In the traditional public administration, rules are ends in themselves resulting into red-tapism and associated evils. However, in NPM, rules are considered a means to an end.


Reliance on process accountability Emphasizes role of results accountability
Anonymity for actions taken More personal accountability for actions of their agencies
Dictated by political leadership for macro and micro aspects Political leadership concerned only with macro policies and goals. All other matters delegated to professional bureaucrats who would be deciding on the basis of economic rationality. Thus it involved reasserting Wilsonian separation of administration from politics with a vengeance.
Focus on organized structure and process Focus on performance
Focus on public bureaucracyonly Explore problem from many different disciplinary bases
Bureaucratic management Professional management in public sector/private sector management practices
Aggregation into a single central department Disaggregation of units in the public sector
Inward looking organizations Outward looking organizations
Focus on administration with attitude of superiority, hierarchy, control etc. Focus on management with participative nature
Irrational resource use Greater discipline and parsimony in resource use



NPM has provided a new paradigm to the discipline of public administration. Earlier it was ‘administration’ now it is ‘management’. However, there is not much new in NPM, as would be clear from the followings:-

1.It advocates neo-Taylorism. Earlier we discarded Taylor’s Scientific Management school of thought for various reasons primarily because it was alleged that it led to dehumanization. But after discarding Taylor’s scientific management, though we adopted a number of other views as shown in the diagram. We have reverted back to the efficiency based scientific management advocated by Taylor’s though with a different orientation.

2.Since it emphasizes that the public managers be allowed to manage and political leadership be concerned only with macro policies, it essentially involves reasserting the Wilsonian separation of administration from politics.

3.The NPM is not so much as an all-together new ‘paradigm’ as a refreshing reconstruction of the evolving discipline of public administration. It needs to be recalled that there has been a long traditions of ‘implementation research’ pioneered by academic stalwarts like Pressman and Wildavsky. The main issue raised by them has been: How public organizations transform policies into results. No doubt, the NPM has symbolized something very new, sweeping the study of governance and public policy. Yet, both implementation research and traditional public administration had much to contribute to the new movement.



New Public Management, managerialism or market-based administration, which has been followed by most developing countries since 1990s is fraught with serious criticisms. ‘Managerialism’ is seen as a derogatory term in some quarters, particularly in India. There are several aspects of new public management which have attracted criticism.


Pollitt, a staunch critic, sees managerialism representing a revival of Frederick Taylor’s scientific management ideas which, according to him, are contrary to the development of the organizational behaviour (human relations approach). Pollitt argues that the managerial reform programme in the 1970s and 1980s “was dominated by the values of efficiency and economy, with effectiveness a poor third”, while other values – for example, fairness, justice, representation, or participation- were either off the agenda or were treated as constraints on the drive for higher productivity.


Public choice advocates the maximization of choice by individualsa maximum role for market forces and a minimal role for government. The key assumption of public choice is a view of rationality. However in the real world all individuals do not behave rationally and all bureaucrats do not maximize their own utility i.e. increasing their own power, prestige and security. It could be said that the assumption of individual rationality is too sweeping and ignores any selfless or public-spirit behaviour by public officials. The question about bureaucrats maximizing budgets to achieve their personal ends suffers from a market lack of empirical test.


It is argued that politicization of the public service leads to erosion of ethical standards. Stillman contends that the emphasis is on an enlarged, politically partisan cadre of loyalists to carry out the work of public administration can and does lead to wholesale corruption and ethical misconduct in office, not to mention poor and inefficient performance as well”. It can open up the government to shady practices, but be continuous: “limited state literature remains largely silent on these vital accountability issues”. A few ethical problems may arise in contractual maters. Corruption may result from secret commissions to individual public officials giving contracts, political interference in the selection of contractors, collusion among tenders and acceptance of tenders for prices above the cost of public provision, and so on. It is largely felt that there are greater opportunities for the dishonest with the adoption of new managerialism. In addition, there are difficulties in ascertaining accountability.


Under the new managerial approach, it is argued that politicization of public service may lead to the emergence of spoils system.


NPM accepts market as a model of government and idealizes the values and techniques of private administration. But NPM fails to take account of real politicof government. The core of the modern government lies in observance of rule of law and not market driven mechanism. Major problems in public administration are basically political and NPM overlooks it.

1.It is good to know how private management works, but at the same time the unique policy role of the government should not be diluted. Government especially at the higher levels, has its peculiar ways of accommodating interests, feeling the pulse of the nationintervening in conflict situations and calculating pay-offs in difficult bargaining situations. This is not so in private organizations.

2.The ‘public interest’ lies at the heart of government operational, and it is irreplaceable by any market philosophy.

3.There is a lurking suspicion that the new paradigm might as well lead to hijacking of the state by the ‘private’ and the ‘powerful’.

4.It is alleged that the NPM is centered on the core and almost ignorant of the periphery. It means in addition to the public and private sectors, there are NGOs, voluntary organizations, civil society etc. The NPM may focus only on government. People’s efforts to organize themselves may be left over.

5.Sometimes it is alleged that NPM is a moral, caring little for administrative ethics which is cornerstone in the running of public affairs.

6.NPM may result into complete neglect of means, insensitivity to social needs and unresponsiveness to public interest.

7.It revives dichotomy.



In the 1980s and early 1990s for a variety of reasons, remarkable changes took place in public sector management practices in most advanced countries. To operationalize good governance, NPM is being considered as a vital input. To achieve this, there have been a lot of structural adjustment and a new type of state invention to seek cooperation and help from community organization and empowerment of citizens.

Most of the countries have attempted to limit the role of the State, including downsizing bureaucracydevolution of authoritycost reduction, contracting outsome of the operative functions of government, developing and designing result oriented appraisal system, and commercialization as well as market orientation of the government activities.

This has been supported by effective accountability moving from rule to result orientation, from systems to enterprises, obedience to reward, inaction to action, centralization to decentralization and from the duties of administrators to the rights of citizens.

a)Structurally, the change was from rigidhierarchical and bureaucratic form of public administration to a flexiblemarket-based form of public management.

b)The changes were not merely in form/style. There was remarkable change in the role of government in society. Similarly, there was a change in government-citizenship relationship.



The reform processes in British public management gained momentum with the rise of conservative party headed by Margaret Thatcher. A public policy known asThatcherism effected a dramatic reduction in the central government’s involvement in the provision of direct services to the citizens. This policy introduced a form of privatization in fields such as transportation and the media whose purpose is to increase market competition and reduce the size of bureaucracies, while introducing an economic logic into the activities of public agencies and the organization related to them. Since the 90’s, the British government has acted mainly on a politically motivated, managerial scheme aiming at budget decentralization to bring the government closer to the citizens and to reduce the ‘remote control’ approach.

These have contributed to the political stability of U.K. and have achieved the status of a managerial autonomy, characterized by a greater democracy andfreedom of choice for the citizens. Thus British public management has become more humane and sensitive towards the citizenry while increasing the level of responsiveness through the introduction of ‘Citizen Charter’. In March 1999, further steps for continuation of reforms introduced through ‘white Paper’ and came to be known as ‘Modernizing Government’.

The emphasis is on the fact that the government does not exist for its employees, but rather for the people and the individuals as clients and citizens. Therefore, the government’s plan has been based upon five main components: planning of long-term public policyencouraging a responsive public serviceemphasizing technological improvementstressing on information availability and improving the public service’s image.



The main contribution of the United States to the development of the NPM thinking came in the form of the improvement of performance and process measures. The Federal government in the United States has especially stressed this in the ‘Government Performance and Results Act’ – GPRA, which was approved by the Congress in 1993. Governmental organisations and agencies have been requested to develop detailed measuring strategies for their products by identifying goals and purposes, studying the possible influences upon them and tightening the tie between performances and long-term goals. As part of this process, all the governmental agencies are obliged to consult the Congress and the other stakeholders as and when needed.

This development has switched the center of the discussion to issues of performance and results instead of wallowing in issues of processes and resources as has been done previously. This also accounts for the evolution of the term ‘Performance Budgeting’. It means the improvement of decision-making processes as an aspiration to achieve certain performances. The main achievement of this focus on performance evaluation in the United States has been the implementation of a methodical and ordered process of studying policy products and evaluating their meaning in terms of out pits and outcomes.



The NPM approach permeated the Australian public management mostly towards the end of the 80s. Government sector, which was plagued by centrality, ‘heavy activity’ and ineptness of the system, received the change initiative with enthusiasm. The change proposes a drastic cut-back on governmental standards. However, the main characteristic of the change in the Australian public management has been ‘Administrative Responsibility and Accountability’, which stands for the increase in the direct responsibility of civil servants for their actions and views. The managers are directly responsible for their decisions in addition to the direct political responsibility, which those elected by the public have towards the citizens. Through outreaching changes in the administrative law in Australia, a legal framework has been set up in order to enforce this responsibility. This means that managers are required to account for their decisions, their implementation and even for their decisions for not acting or executing.



The changes and reforms in Canada came from different directions, but are all based on a limited number of basic assumptions: (1) maintaining a strong government is essential for the protection of the state, (2) evaluating the government’s role in the future is important, (3) well-performing public sector is highly related to a modern policy of providing services to the citizens, (4) professional civil servants and those who have an independent way of thinking are to be nurtured, (5) wise governmental and administrative leadership gives direction and backing to those deal with public service roles and must be encouraged. In 1995, the Task Force on the Management of Horizontal policy was established. Its role is to centralize the policy issues, which are related to more than one office, and to manage the activities required of them a little better.

In general, the Task Force has been requested to create a cooperative culture of policy-making and implementation, and to form a commitment amongst governmental agencies to coordinate work while constantly and rapidly transferring ideas, information and learning mutually from past experience. In 1996, the Policy Research Committee was established for assisting the government in preparing for cooperative work among public organisations and in implementing coordinated public policy by 2005. This Committee has produced two main reports, which focus on the means to increase the collaboration and coordination between the different market sectors at the national and international levels. The activity of this Committee has been the first step in a process called “The Policy Research Initiative’. As a part of this framework, a Secretariat for policy Research has been established in the Federal government.



In the last decade an accelerated processes of privatization, governmental decentralization, reduction in the number of public sector employees and increase in the collaboration with private bodies, which would perform activities that have been hitherto in the domain of the government, also called ‘Outsourcing’, began. The government has initiated a comprehensive plan, which has greatly reduced the rate of national expenditure for the purposes of welfare. It has introduced components, which encourage internal and external competition in the public sector’s environment, attempt to lower the taxes and maintain fairness in the distribution of national resources. The plan has also encouraged reliance on the country’s own resources. It aims at increasing the stress upon public sector’s efficiency, citizens’ freedom of choice, and mutual relations between service providers and clients as opposed to the former pattern according to which the citizen is dependent upon the government and its institutes (Boston, Dalziel And John, 1999).

The switch to a harsh budgetary restraint has indeed managed to rescue the country and its public sector from the crisis it had fallen into. Yet the harsh recuperation process has left its signs among different social groups, which now have to get accustomed to a much weaker support from the government than before. The gap between the rich and the poor has widened and by the end of the decade many people in New Zealand may taste the influence of the new management reforms on their lives.



Certain motives of the NPM approach have entered Israel in the last two decades. The main changes in the Israeli public sector from the 70s till today are based on two main components: a real revolution in the field of decentralization (for example, the transfer of managerial authorities from the central to the local government and the award of greater freedom to act in terms of budgetary management in the different government offices), and a growing Privatization since the mid-80s. At the same time, there is a strengthening of processes such as raising the transparency regarding governmental activitynurturing managers andinstitutes accountability to the public, and involving the public auditing system in the fields it had not dealt with in the past (Friedberg, 2000). However, it seems that in other fields such as the reduction of bureaucracy and the introduction of a new managerial culture, especially in the field of performance evaluation of public organisations, the steps are smaller and insufficient and therefore the challenge for change is greater.

Israel was as a welfare country with a market and society, which were managed in a highly centralized manner, and which were characterized by three main sectors: the public, the private and that of the Employees Federation, the Histadrut. The country’s values as a welfare country included the aspiration to provide social security, maintain the quality of life, and reduce inequalities (Doron, 1995). In order to achieve the goals, which suit these values, the inter-sectoral power-structure in the country’s initial years had clearly leaned towards the public sector and the sector of the Histadrut. These have usually acted in a cooperative and coordinated way and stopped the introduction of reforms and changes, which threatened the social values. This power-structure has changed completely since the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s when, on the one hand, the dominance of the Histadrut sector has greatly deteriorated while on the other, the global trends, with greater efficiency and focus on business management in the public sector have increased.

Even though the governmental and public committees have been able to keep the issue of change and reform on the Israeli public agenda, a close study would show that the public management changes only focus on the organizational, structural and financial structure of the government’s branches. They all lack a systematic approach to the introduction of a new managerial culture into the government, and there is no sufficient focus on the development of appropriate, tools for the behavioral performance evaluation of the public sector. As a result, most of the knowledge we have today centers on the attitude towards changes and reforms on the formal aspects of the public system’s structure and organisation or alternatively on its activities and performance from an economic perspective. The latter deals with the functioning of the budget or with the other issues of resources’ allocation and does not make use of tools from the field of social sciences, whose efficiency and contribution to the improvement of the public service is proven.



Indian reforms towards introducing ‘New Public Management’ during the last 53 years have been rather ad hoc and slow. However, in the conference of the chief secretaries of state/UTs of effective and responsive administration in November 1996 followed by a conference of Chief Ministers in May 1997, it was recognized that governance has to extend beyond conventional bureaucracies and to involve actively citizens and consumer groups. Of late, in India, consensus has emerged on achieving the goals of accountability, citizen friendly government, transparency, right to information and improving performance and integrity of public services at the central and state levels. A large number of states, UTs and central Government have already taken several steps in this direction. Achieving of the declared agenda for reforms towards good governance in India would require operationalization of the concept of New Public Management. A number steps have already been taken in this direction. The achievements are worthy. Still there are many promises which have remained unaccomplished.


Cost-cuttingright-sizing and disinvestment of government assets are the major components of NPM in order to improve the service delivery system. The crux of the reform in each state is to improve the system in the form of focusing on ResponsibilityAccountability and Performance (RAP), which are the major building blocks of management reform in public system. There is need to improve the governance decision making processconstructive political willchange of ideological orientationa simplified public systemfinancial inclusionstrict implementation of code of ethics for the public servantsheavy investments in social welfare and infrastructurepolitical stability and bringing professionalism in public system to overcome failures in governance.

The NPM has exposed the over protected ‘bureaucracy’ to models of management. NPM’s concern for the citizen is praise worthy. It is a bold measure of systematic administrative reform in the broadest term. If implemented in the right earnest, it can change the way the government govern.



1.“New Public Management and post-New Public Management reforms initiatives have affected the balance between managerial, political, administrative, legal, professional & social accountability.” Analyse.  (2014)

2.“New Public Management may have neither been the saviour its enthusiasts promised nor the devil its critics worried it would be.” Discuss.  (2013)

3.‘A crisis of credibility in the administrative system can be overcome only by ‘Reinventing government ‘.’ Comment.  (2011)

4.“New Public Management is dead; long live digital era of governance.” Comment. (2010)

5.It is said that “the perspective of public administration, developed over a century, with a tradition of management of Public institutions and services has received a jolt from the novelty of New Public Management”. Bring out the core values, approaches and assumptions of traditional public administration and show how the New Public Management has attempted to change or retain them, and to what extent.     (2009)

6.In the last two decades, almost all countries of the world have experienced transformations in their administrative systems.” Explain this phenomenon with examples from the developed and the developing nations in the context of NPM Movement.   (2008)

7.“The (NPM) is an incarnation of a new model of public sector management in response of the challenges of liberalization, international competitiveness and technological changes.” Explain. (2003)


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