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Government designed for new times

To explore the approaches that governments around the world are taking to common problems, this anthology convenes political leaders and civil servants, economists and policy experts, generalists and specialists.
Almost 20 years ago, Sweden faced an economic and fiscal crisis, recognizable to many in Europe today. Here’s how the government enacted the difficult reforms that brought it back to prosperity.
October 2012 | by Göran Persson
In the present euro crisis, many references are made to the Swedish experience in the early 1990s. Clearly, there are similarities: a real-estate bubble, bank bailouts, falling consumption, a recession, double-digit budget deficits, a weak market for state bonds, spiking interest rates, and the skyrocketing cost of debt maintenance.
As the new government took office in October 1994, Sweden was caught in the vicious circle that many European countries face today. Four years later, in 1998, Sweden had a budget surplus, solid growth, decreasing unemployment, and a reelected government. Even today, Sweden is one of few European countries with a national debt that’s less than 40 percent of GDP and a balanced budget.
Every country, of course, has a unique set of issues and requires a unique solution Still, there are lessons from Sweden that have a bearing on the situation today, both regarding personal leadership and the design and implementation of reforms.
Leadership
In my experience, any politician facing a large budget consolidation must have three personal and nonnegotiable commitments:
Show true leadership. Someone has to take the lead and create momentum. That is a political kamikaze mission, impossible unless you are truly ready to put your job at stake. The desire to do right must be greater than the ambition to cling to power. Ultimately, you must accept that you have a personal responsibility to foster public respect for the political system and protect the strength of the democracy.
Create impact. This issue is not really one of economics but of politics. It is easy to understand what needs to be done. The challenge is to do it, continuously building the majorities needed for the number of years required to implement the program. Having genuine impact takes reflection, it takes skill, and it takes endurance.
Communicate. You cannot count on popular support, but you must maintain the respect of the people. Communication is key. Be transparent. Find ways to describe the situation so that people understand why you’re taking the steps you’re taking. Stick to your messages. Just as important: don’t get trapped in wishful thinking. Be conservative in any forecast you make so that any surprises are positive, and don’t ever pretend it won’t hurt—it will
Five cornerstones of reform
In addition, there has to be a rigorously structured plan. The turnaround of the Swedish economy contained five cornerstones that are usually found in the most difficult reform approaches, programs that are large, necessary—and unpopular.
Get a reality check. Naturally, the first phase of every large reform has to be a thorough analysis. What is the situation we’re trying to address? What problems do we have to solve? What do we know, what do we believe, and what additional knowledge can we find? The problem with this process of analysis is that almost everyone, including the experts, has a vested interest—based on ideology, personal implications, or pecuniary reasons. At this stage, policy makers need to question every conclusion, even those that originate with their own agencies, in order to develop a conviction that will withstand the tough scrutiny of everyone from professors to blue-collar workers.
I believe that the more transparent the formation of this analysis is, the better. A public discussion will both make conflicting interests examine other arguments and make citizens more aware of the problems and thus more open to reform.
A successful reform program must also address the domestic cultural and political logic.
Maybe the most important thing to understand is that you won’t have perfect understanding. I have seen many politicians become paralyzed by the search for the perfect solution. And while they analyze, the problem grows and eventually someone else—the opposition, interest groups, the market—will take the initiative. Then it is virtually impossible to drive reform.
Construct a reform program. To push through a genuinely unpopular reform, such as a budget consolidation, the reform must do two things: offer a solution to a crisis and include safeguards to make sure the crisis does not recur. In Sweden, the immediate budget measures, tax increases, and cuts in social insurance programs, pensions, and public services were combined with structural reforms, including a new budget law ensuring better control over expenditure, a sustainable pension system, improved wage formation, and liberalization of state monopoly markets such as telecommunication and electricity.
Both parts of the program—the direct action and the structural change—reinforced each other. In the short term, the structural reform contributed to trust in the long-term ability to maintain a balanced budget, bringing interest rates down. Actually balancing the budget gave the government the maneuvering room to enact the difficult structural reforms.
A successful reform program must also address the domestic cultural and political logic. In Sweden, a key enabler was a strong focus on a fair distribution of burdens. With the egalitarian set of values that characterize Sweden, solidarity was important. It is always the families that already have problems making ends meet that will take the largest blows from any austerity package. They have limited savings, small margins, and are often recipients of public transfers. They often have young children or they are retired. In both cases, they are more dependent on public services such as child care, elder care, and schools than the population at large. With these factors in mind, we carefully analyzed the distribution of burdens in the various parts of the reform program; from the beginning, we described to the public exactly how the burdens would be shared, and we did so with each budget we presented.
Get the mandate. The first two cornerstones are relatively simple. Again, the difficult thing is rarely to understand, but rather to do.
Every democratic politician has his or her power as a mandate, ultimately from the voters. It is formed around power centers, such as trade unions or employers’ federations, media, and specific individuals or companies. These centers must be understood, faced, and involved. It is an illusion to believe they will all agree to each unpopular decision, but it is essential to understand the consequences and have an idea of how to counteract or influence any major challenges they can create. Creating a common definition of the crisis and its components, as well as including critical power centers, makes it harder for such groups to launch full-scale confrontations.
The most important mandate, however, is in parliament. Regardless of whether you lead a majority or minority government, you must have solid support for the measures you take, and you have to ensure that the mandate lasts over a long period. To muddle through with one compromise at a time will quickly erode any momentum the reform might have had. And if you don’t have support you can rely on, you will constantly be searching for new partners, which takes time. Even worse, with every change of partner, the measures you enact will deviate further and further from the original plan.
A solid majority must be based on a common understanding: “Yes, it will be difficult, and popular support will diminish, but in the long term, the electorate will reward those who do the right things for the country and deliver. And in order to deliver, we have to stick together—no matter what happens.”
During the Swedish budget consolidation, the Social Democratic government gained tremendously from cooperating with the Centre party. It was this broad coalition—based on trust rather than written agreements—that finally persuaded investors to trust us to deliver.
Execute. Execution is, in essence, a matter of good management. It is impossible to control all parts of the implementation, and there is rarely time to construct detailed instructions for every part of the administration in the state, regions, and municipalities. Further, many of the agencies and authorities run highly professional and complex operations. Making centralized decisions on exactly how to meet new budget requirements is discouraging and will ultimately lead to many poor decisions. Instead, it is important to ensure that the administration is motivated and has clear targets. All those who are responsible must have the freedom to execute but at the same time be accountable for the results of their actions.
The entire administration must understand the reasons for the reforms, the targets, and the importance of everyone contributing. As a leader, you have to stand up, be clear and open, meet the inevitable criticism, take action when managers do not deliver, and explain why, perhaps many times. You have to be compassionate with the people affected but firm in standing up for the measures taken and the path chosen. That is why communication is so important.
This is not a one-night show. Most large reform programs last for many years and consist of thousands of decisions and hundreds of bills to parliament. There will be many critical articles in the media and many disappointed people that you have to face during execution. It takes endurance. It takes a strong central team. It takes delegation.
Shift to a new agenda. Almost all politicians in democracies have entered into politics for a single reason: they want to do good. They have different ideas of what good is, but that is their motivation—improve the world, their countries, and the people they serve. In a company, you can motivate staff with bonuses or other material incentives. That is impossible in politics. To endure a lengthy, unpopular reform program, it is almost a prerequisite to combine execution with planning ahead for more constructive and positive reforms once the austerity measures have done their work.
When the largest hurdles are passed and the momentum is still strong, it is time to communicate new ambitions. In late 1996—two years into the Swedish budget consolidation program—we started to refocus the rhetoric from austerity to fighting unemployment and prioritizing schools and health care once we achieved a balanced budget and solid growth.
By defining a new agenda, it became clear to everyone that the target in itself was not austerity, but jobs, education, and health. It was a light in the tunnel for the people who had endured years of austerity. It also served as new fuel for the administration, motivating them not to stop halfway through, but rather to finish the job and create a solid surplus that could be used for future improvements.
On the other hand, had those cheerier goals been brought forward too early, they would have destroyed the consolidation altogether. You can’t reduce the number of nurses and at the same time say that more money will be put into health care in a couple years’ time. That would confuse voters, upset investors, and jeopardize everything achieved.
No silver bullets
Each crisis is unique and requires a unique program. Still, many failed reforms can be explained by the lack of one or more of these cornerstones. Many politicians have known very well what to do but failed in execution. Many have had the mandate from the people but missed the majority in the parliament. Many have—despite a majority in parliament—failed to motivate the administration. And many have failed to fully achieve their goals because they lost their political mission while pushing through unpopular decisions and either lost momentum or lost an election.
It is difficult to take a holistic approach under the extreme pressure of a budget collapse or other crises. But doing so is of tremendous importance. If politicians fail to deliver on the difficult issues—not only sovereign-debt reduction but also innovation and growth, ecological sustainability, global trade, and decent distribution of wealth and income—then political power will deteriorate. Ultimately, democracy will become shallow and vulnerable.
About the author
Göran Persson was finance minister of Sweden from 1994 to 1996 and prime minister from 1996 to 2006.

Fiscal management fix: Simple math—and a very big stick
October 2012 | by Douglas Holtz-Eakin
The US budget process has been hijacked by partisan politics. The solution? No paychecks for Congress or the president until they agree on a budget.
The greatest threat facing the United States is its large debt, which is projected to grow even larger over the next decade. The political gridlock in the presence of this debt problem has produced one downgrade of the federal government’s bonds already. To avoid another and fix the US federal government, all that is needed is arithmetic: Addition. Subtraction. Sum. Difference.
Specifically, a statute should require that the House of Representatives and the Senate pass, and the president sign, an annual budget that carries the force of law. That is, it should be a requirement that the federal government add up all types of spending, subtract all sources of revenue, and commit as a whole to the difference—the deficit and its contribution to federal debt.
The requirement to determine annually all types of spending and comprehensive sources of revenue is the single best way to bridge the current partisan divide and improve the quality of federal fiscal policy. It is the silver bullet for politics and policy.
At present, the president submits an annual budget request, but it is no more than that. There is no binding requirement for Congress to act on it in any way. Indeed, often it is deemed “dead on arrival” in Congress. More generally, the fact that Congress can ignore the president’s budget permits the White House to treat it as an opportunity for political messaging, with no policy intent or operational significance. The system permits US presidents to bypass the obligation to provide any fiscal leadership.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Budget Act of 1974 calls on the House and Senate each to pass an annual budget resolution, reconcile the differences in a conference, and pass the result. Sometimes this happens. But there is no real penalty for failing to adopt a budget resolution, and increasingly Congress does not. Since 2000, Congress has adopted a concurrent budget resolution only seven times, a bit over half the time. In particular, Congress tends to avoid budget resolutions in election years.
The result is that the United States does not have a fiscal policy, that is, a deliberate stance on the composition and level of federal outlays and receipts. Instead it has fiscal outcomes: the president proposes, the House acts, the Senate acts, and the results have no coherent relationship with the various types of spending and revenue.
From a policy perspective, the results have been abysmal. Gross federal debt now exceeds the size of the US economy, and an explosion of spending over the next decade is projected to drive it northward. The core source of this spending is the social safety net. Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security are currently running cash-flow deficits that will expand as the baby-boom generation retires. These programs will fall under their own financial weight unless reformed. Simply put, the current approach to federal budgeting is a policy failure.
At the same time, this approach exacerbates the political divide. The White House has no need to meaningfully engage Congress, and the House and Senate face no dictate to bridge partisan divides and produce a joint budgetary framework.
Neither the policy nor the political failure should be permitted to continue.
Instituting a legal requirement for a federal budget raises a number of issues: what it would accomplish, how it would be enforced, and what complementary changes would be needed.
The policy accomplishment is straightforward. The budget would constitute an agreed-upon plan by Congress and the executive branch for spending priorities over the subsequent decade, as well as a corresponding plan for tax and deficit finance of that spending. Notice that the requirement to pass a budget does not impose any limitations on the underlying fiscal policy—no balanced-budget requirement, spending limits, or tax requirements. But the requirement to pass such a budget would carry with it an inevitable discussion of these crucial issues. Further, in the process, every program and initiative would come under scrutiny in the competition for budget resources.
The political ramifications are equally large. In the absence of one party controlling the House, Senate, and White House, each annual budget would require the kind of bipartisan negotiation and compromise that is missing at present. It simply would not be possible to take a nonnegotiable, partisan position and let the budget outcomes just evolve. Regular negotiation and compromise would build greater comity among members from different parts of the ideological spectrum. It would still be possible to stake out preferred positions at the start of the annual negotiations, but the climate of poisonous stalemate would have to become a part of history.
Of course, the Budget Act of 1974 contains many deadlines—for the president’s budget, the budget resolution, and the appropriations process—that are regularly ignored. To make sure that this budget law sticks, a greater incentive is needed: money. Specifically, it should not be legal to pay congressional or White House salaries unless a budget is in place for that fiscal year. Period. As the October 1 deadline approaches, members of Congress, the president, and their respective staffs would face a cutoff in pay unless the budget is passed. There is no more targeted incentive imaginable, and the politics of eliminating this provision would ensure its survival.
Finally, the advent of regular scrutiny of each budget item would permit the elimination of two of the most destructive and subterranean practices. At present, Congress regularly includes a conference report along with bills, often adding specific directives that exceed the authorization included in the law itself. In addition, Congress annually demands of agencies an operating plan, which again becomes a vehicle for specific instructions on spending that are not contained in the law.
Both practices engender congressional micromanagement that makes it difficult for the administration to manage agencies and programs. This is at odds with the framers’ intention that Congress legislates and the administration executes programs. With the annual opportunity for Congress to engage the administration on the funding and intentions of each program, such tools should not be necessary.
The federal government is inefficient, torn by partisan rancor, heavily indebted, and headed toward even worse. But that is because it is allowed to be, and to still borrow and fund programs that fit political aims. Requiring an annual budget would provide incentives in the search for efficiency and require negotiation and bipartisan compromise. It would not rule out deficits, but they would arise from a plan.
About the author
Douglas Holtz-Eakin is president of the American Action Forum and was a commissioner on the congressionally chartered Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. He has also served as chief economist of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and as director of the Congressional Budget Office. Holtz-Eakin has a BA from Denison University and PhD in economics from Princeton University.

Better data, better policy making
October 2012 | by Mohamed Ibrahim
In Africa, the eradication of poverty is the number-one goal. Sadly, there’s little data to measure the continent’s progress.
Governing is about delivery. The challenge of government is to improve the quality of life of citizens. “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” has been a recurrent refrain in quadrennial American presidential campaigns and is a question that is just as relevant in the African political context. To meet this challenge, a government has to come up with a clear and coherent set of ideas—a vision—and use available resources and instruments as efficiently as possible to produce the results that citizens expect. The risk taking involved in articulating and defining a progressive vision for the future is what defines great leadership. Achieving that vision as effectively as possible requires effective risk management—in other words, good governance.
In defining a national vision, leaders employ their ideologies and are elected, or not, accordingly. However, the successful implementation of that vision cannot be ideologically driven. It requires sound public policy that is transparent, accountable, and effective.
I would suggest that the best way to improve government is to improve government’s ability to manage risk and produce results. This could be achieved by a shift toward data-based policy making. While this may sound self-evident, the lack of good statistical data in Africa is illustrative.
Five years ago, my foundation began to publish a comprehensive index of governance (the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, or IIAG) to address exactly this deficit. We were able to identify approximately 100 measurable indicators that accurately capture governance performance. This may sound impressive, until you consider that we were seeking variables to measure everything from national security to personal safety, from public management to gender equity, from physical infrastructure to democratic participation, and from education and health to welfare at the rural level. Moreover, after scouring all available data for consistency (including from the World Bank), we were unable to include poverty in our index. This is due to the extreme patchiness of the data—we could find no single consistent measurement that covered a minimum of 35 African countries and had been taken at least twice over the past decade.
Since the primary goal of development must be the alleviation and eventual eradication of poverty, this deficit raises serious questions. If the reduction of poverty is not the definition of success (and is not being assessed accordingly), then what are the billions of aid dollars going toward? And if the reduction of poverty is the primary goal, why is no one measuring it adequately to see if all those funds are being used effectively? Similarly, how can African citizens and governments properly assess their progress and make informed electoral decisions and promises? I wonder how Western governments would fare running an election campaign with no access to public-opinion polling?
I have long advocated for increased investment in national statistical offices and other data-gathering institutions. This is a point that bears repeating. For African governments the paucity of good data is further complicated by the weakness of institutions, particularly the civil service. This is exacerbated by the fact that the poor public perception of civil service ensures that the best and brightest young people are more apt to seek work in the private sector. This means that it is even more important that the civil service have access to the necessary resources to guide its decision making.
Data-driven policy making would also have the additional benefit of allowing for a more rational public debate on sensitive topics. In Africa and beyond, the increased economic migration that comes with the economic integration of countries is a source of inflated rhetoric and conflict. Be it the Tanzanian fear of the country’s businesses being subsumed by dynamic Kenyan entrepreneurs or the British working class feeling displaced by Eastern Europeans, the fear is the same and fueled by the failure of politicians to make a data-based case for immigration and to articulate the economic costs and benefits of not embracing further regional integration. African leaders are not articulating clearly enough to their citizens that an entire continent with a collective GDP that is less than that of Brazil has no future other than through integrating its markets.
Even Africa’s reserves of natural resources must be understood in context. For example, Africa is by far the largest global producer of cobalt. Yet global cobalt sales in 2011 totaled less than $380 million. Furthermore, the potential benefit of these resources requires better public management than has been the case to date.
Similarly, the demography of Africa poses a huge opportunity but also a huge challenge. By 2020, 200 million young Africans will enter the job market. The political stability of much of the continent will depend on the ability of the different governments to meet this supply with appropriate demand. For all Africa’s natural-resource potential, it is this human-resource base that will determine its future prosperity.
All of this points to the necessity of robust data. It is as difficult to design policies without data as it is to measure the outcomes of those policies. But data alone is not sufficient. In just five years, the IIAG has increasingly become a tool for policy makers, citizens, and civil-society organizations to assess the impact of policy interventions, guide resource allocation, and learn from the successes and failures of other countries in the region. Yet it is just one small contribution, and for each government that welcomes it as a policy-making tool, several others view it with suspicion. Clearly a shift of mind-set is required on the part of some policy makers so that the index is seen not only as a way to critique but also as a tool to strengthen government. In this regard, we still have much work to do.
We need to work to strengthen both the supply and demand sides of governance data. Then we will see the kind of progress in Africa that its citizens have a right to expect—through the formulation and implementation of public policies and discourse that are rooted in an empirical understanding of where the continent is and where it needs to go. That, in my view, is the single best idea for government in Africa.
About the author
Mohamed Ibrahim is founder and chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which supports good governance and leadership in Africa. Previously, he founded Celtel, which operates mobile networks in Africa. He holds a BS in electrical engineering from the University of Alexandria and a PhD in mobile communications from the University of Birmingham.

Coping with complexity
October 2012 | by Peter Ho
Crises are erupting around the globe with increasing frequency. Governments must learn to cope—increased risk and complexity are here to stay.
The great acceleration
Governments aim to produce good outcomes for the nation and for individuals. But the best intentions can be derailed by black swans, unknown unknowns, and wild cards—like the eurozone crisis, the 2011 Japanese tsunami and ensuing nuclear meltdowns, the financial and economic turbulence of 2008–09, SARS in 2003, and September 11.
Unfortunately, such shocks seem to be occurring with increasing frequency. What has been described as the “Great Acceleration” provides an important explanation for this situation. Since the middle of the 20th century, change has accelerated at an unprecedented global scale. Population growth has surged. Combined with rapid urbanization, that growth has generated enormous consumer demand. The effort to meet this demand through industrialization and mass production has had a huge but unpredictable impact on the earth’s ecosystem. Globalization resulting from and combined with technological innovation has accelerated change on all fronts—political, economic, and social.
As a result, our operating environment is growing in complexity. Events and trends in various spheres interact with one another in complex and sometimes mystifying ways. We will be surprised time and again because complexity creates interdependencies that are inexplicable, emergent, and difficult to predict. Shocks occur because we do not have enough tools to identify emerging threats, challenges, and even opportunities in such a complex environment.
We cannot avoid surprise altogether. There will always be black swans and sudden disruptions to current situations. But reducing the frequency and the amplitude of such shocks is possible and should form a central imperative of government in the future.
The first step is for governments to acknowledge the complexity in their operating environment. There is a real danger of national failure—if not collapse—when governments ignore complexity and operate as if all problems are amenable to simple policy prescriptions.
Unfortunately, the evidence of the last half-century suggests that many governments will opt to take this path, whether out of political expediency, because of cognitive failures, or simply because they lack the tools to deal with complexity. Avoiding this path requires fundamental changes to the mind-set, capabilities, and organization of government.
The whole-of-government mind-set
Complexity generates “wicked problems”—large and intractable challenges with many dimensions and multiple stakeholders that do not necessarily share convergent goals. The most vexing wicked problems today—such as climate change, energy security, global pandemics, sustainable development, and cyberthreats—have causes and influencing factors that are not easily determined ex ante. In our increasingly interconnected and globalized world, such wicked problems do not manifest in isolation. Their impact can be felt in multiple dimensions and geographies.
Developing policies and plans to deal with such wicked problems requires the integration of diverse insights, experience, and expertise. People from different organizations, both from within and outside government, have to come together to pool their knowledge in order to discover potential solutions. Mechanisms need to be set up to enable the sharing of information and to strengthen collective action. This is the whole-of-government approach, which injects diversity into the policy process, recognizing that insight and good ideas are not the monopoly of single agencies or of government acting alone.
While the whole-of-government approach is an imperative, it is not easily achieved without a basic change of mind-set. Governments, like all large, hierarchical organizations, tend to optimize at the departmental level rather than at the organization level. This is because information flows most efficiently within vertical departmental silos rather than horizontally across departments. Departments tend to reward people for their contributions to the agency, rather than for their contributions to the larger whole-of-government.
In Singapore, the whole-of-government approach has been most evident in the economic arena. Over some 25 years, a succession of four comprehensive economic reviews has seen the public and private sectors coming together to produce far-reaching policy recommendations for Singapore’s long-term economic competitiveness.
But whole-of-government remains a work in progress. It requires emphasis, support, and constant attention from the top. Successive heads of civil service in Singapore have therefore made it their core business to promote the whole-of government mind-set.
Capabilities for managing complexity
In a complex operating environment, governments should be adaptive, emergent, and able to navigate situations characterized by multicausality and ambiguity. Governments will often have to make big decisions and develop plans and policies under conditions of incomplete information and uncertain outcomes. It is not possible to prepare exhaustively for every contingency. Instead, a “search and discover” approach should be adopted. The military calls this approach observe, orientate, decide, act, or OODA, a recurring cycle of decision making that acknowledges and exploits the uncertainty and complexity of the battlefield.
In this regard, nonlinear methods like scenario planning, policy gaming (the civilian analogue of war-gaming), and horizon scanning (the process of detecting emerging trends, threats, and opportunities) should be part of the government toolbox.
Governments must also deal with the risk that naturally results from operating in complexity. There will always be threats to national outcomes, policies, and plans. But there is little by way of best practices to systematically address or ameliorate these threats. So the government of Singapore is developing from scratch its unique Whole-of-Government Integrated Risk Management (WOG-IRM) framework—a governance chain that begins with risk identification and assessment at the strategic level, progresses to monitoring of risk indicators, and finally arrives at resource mobilization and behavioral changes to prepare for each anticipated risk.
Organizing in the face of complexity
Resilience is the ability to cope with strategic shock by adapting to, or even transforming with, rapid and turbulent change. It is going about our daily business while operating in an environment of flux. Resilience is a key characteristic of governments that operate effectively in a complex environment.
Resilient governments must go beyond an emphasis on efficiency. Lean systems that focus exclusively on efficiency are unlikely to have sufficient resources to deal with unexpected shocks and volatility, while having the capacity to make plans for an uncertain future filled with wicked problems.
This is not an argument for establishing bloated and sluggish bureaucracies. Rather, one important idea is for resilient governments to have a small but dedicated group of people to think about the future. The skill sets needed are different from those required to deal with short-term volatility and crisis. Both are important, but those charged with thinking about the future systematically should be allocated the bandwidth to focus on the long term without getting bogged down in day-today routine. They will become repositories of patterns that can be used to facilitate decision making, to prepare for unknown unknowns, and perhaps to conduct policy experiments through policy gaming or other simulations.
To this end, the government of Singapore set up the Centre for Strategic Futures (CSF) in 2009. The CSF promotes a whole-of-government approach to strategic planning and decision making; works on leading-edge concepts, like WOG-IRM and resilience; promotes fresh approaches for dealing with complexity, like policy gaming; and encourages experiments with new computer-based tools and sense-making methods to improve horizon scanning. Although a small outfit, the CSF is a catalyst for strategic change in the government and its agencies.
A flexible, adaptive, whole-of-government approach is the way of the future. Governments must gear up to operate in an environment marked by complexity, where they will have to experiment, manage risk, fail, learn, and then pick themselves up to start over—and, hopefully, do better.
About the author
Peter Ho is a senior adviser for the Centre for Strategic Futures in Singapore. Previously, he was head of the civil service there and held numerous other government appointments. Ho earned both a BA and an MA from the University of Cambridge.

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