The importance of an efficient and effective public service in the delivery of economic and social development is a long-standing theme of development policy. To this end, comprehensive public sector reform has become a major feature in many developing countries in recent years. This paper examines the recent experience of the Commonwealth Caribbean with a particular focus on the successes and failures of New Public Management (NPM) as a strategy for reform. It begins by briefly examining the institutional environment that has shaped public administration and public management in the Commonwealth Caribbean and then examines some of the principal ideas behind NPM, distinguishing it from the previous dominant paradigm of development administration. The paper then identifies three key issues that have emerged in the reform process: the political-administrative interface; the private sector as a model for the public sector; and the human resource dimension of managing change. In each case the background to reform is given along with the NPM solution to the problem and a case study exemplifying how it has worked out in practice. The paper concludes by discussing two key dimensions of the NPM experience: its internationalization and the importance of politics in promoting and sustaining a successful public sector reform program. Te final section examines some of the main lessons of reform and what direction it might take in the future.

Part of Series

CIGI's Caribbean Papers present and discuss policy issues pertaining to trade, investment, human capital, the fiscal outlook and public sector management practices, among other issues, relevant to the Caribbean region's economic future.
  • Paul Sutton is a Research Professor in the Caribbean Studies Centre at London Metropolitan University, UK. He is the author and editor of many books and articles on the Caribbean, including most recently Modernizing the State (2006) and, with Anthony Payne, Repositioning the Caribbean within Globalisation (2007).