Translating Agency Reform: Rhetoric and culture in comparative perspective
Agentschappen vertaald: retoriek en cultuur in vergelijkend perspectief
The experience of the last two decades would suggest that a new international reform category has emerged, the agency. Although not always consistent with local titles, the agency label has been associated with public sector arrangements observed in countries as diverse as England (O’Toole and Jordan, 1995), Sweden (Fortin,1996; Gustafsson and Rhodes, 1989), Portugal, Japan (Oliver 2000), The Netherlands (Ter Bogt, 1999; Van der Knaap et al., 1997), Latvia (Pollitt et al., 2001; Pollitt, 2002), New Zealand (Boston et al., 1996), Canada (Aucoin, 1996), and Australia (Armstrong, 1998; Rowlands, 2002) - to name just a few examples. With endorsement from international organizations such as the OECD and World Bank, agencies have also been enforced upon developing countries such as Ghana and Tanzania as a condition for financial aid (Talbot and Caulfield, 2002; Minogue et al., 1999). Their spread has been the consequence of seeming universal agreement that they are a good thing. This has been reflected in OECD reports which have recognized the “greater use of agencies or their equivalents …(for) purposes that include better service, greater efficiency, a focus on results, as well as clearer accountability relationships between the institution and government” (OECD, 1997a:19). Agencies have not only been deemed appropriate reform accessories for all kinds of political administrative contexts, but they have apparently also been able to bring about a range of benefits in these different circumstances.