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Report Calls For Better Public Sector Performance In New Zealand

A new report by The New Zealand Initiative documents the grounds for concern about the public sector’s performance.

It calls for those in charge to step up to learn from better-performing countries.

The research note, titled Public Service Bloat – The Evidence, was written by Dr Bryce Wilkinson, Senior Fellow at The New Zealand Initiative.

Numbers employed have increased 28% in the last five years, spending has risen sharply, and the public service looks top heavy in well-paid managers and communications teams. Yet outcomes are troubling in major government-dominated sectors such as crime-prevention, health, education, housing, and welfare.

On the evidence cited in the report, Australia outperforms New Zealand on many, but not all measures. And Australia is not a top performer.

One quantitative study in 2019 found that the best performing member countries of the Paris-based OECD looked to be capable of achieving the same public service outcomes as New Zealand for up to 49% fewer resources.

Evidence of underperformance is not new. Even before 2000, New Zealand languished in the bottom quadrant of OECD member nations for public sector efficiency, Australia was in the top quadrant.

The situation is not disastrous. New Zealand’s public service ranks highly internationally in some important respects. But complacency would be a mistake. Too many trends are negative and too many outcomes unacceptable.

Dr Wilkinson urges those in charge of public service to learn from higher-performing nations and implement necessary changes promptly. Otherwise, the future looks progressively troubling.

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