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Imagine being a senior programme manager at a ministry in an Anglo-Saxon country in 1990. In the past few years, you have been involved in various efforts to introduce private sector management techniques in government agencies. These operations have been driven by an urge to cut costs and remove slack from ‘dysfunctional, bloated bureaucracies’ (in the words of the last two ministers you served). At this stage, you and your colleagues are preparing for the next, even more fundamental transformation: a series of large-scale privatizations of current government functions, programmes, and agencies. Strengthened by concurrent movements in a number of countries, your political masters are enthusiastic and eager to push through what has been recently referred to as New Public Management or NPM. In your context, NPM has so far meant a greater disaggregation of policy-making and implementation, competition between agencies and programmes, and more competitive training programmes and remuneration structures for senior management. Over the past few years, you have loyally contributed to the reform ambitions of your political masters. What they probably don’t realize is that in communicating and implementing new measures you got much of your inspiration from rather classical examples, writings, and practices. You remember them well from your days as a graduate student at the country’s top school of government, and from workshops over the course of your career.
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