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Public Service Delivery

A brief history

During the first half of the last century, two World Wars contributed to significant government intervention and control of all national resources. Later on, public administrations further extended their protective role by gradually intervening in different economic, social, and cultural areas. The role of the «Welfare State» reached its peak in the decades that followed World War II.

By the 1980s, the administrative machinery of Government had become so heavy that its cost led to a progressive and significant indebtedness that forced industrialised nations to undertake major reforms of their public sectors (Aucoin and Savoie, 1998). These reforms consisted of a progressive disengagement of the state from various sectors of activity, such as natural resources management; it then refocused its mission around key sectors such as health, social security, employment and justice (Beauregard, 1994).

There are two main reasons why post-war taxpayers welcomed this change in the role of Government. On the one hand, taxpayers were overtaxed and as they saw their capacity to pay decrease, they pressured Government to shrink and to manage public property more efficiently (Guay, 1997). On the other hand, witnessing the transformation of the world economy due to a significant increase in information and communications technologies (ICTs) and market globalisation, taxpayers rapidly became sophisticated consumers and demanded that Government modernise and improve the quality of its own public service delivery methods (Éthier, 1994). In summary, three main factors have created huge pressure on the administrative machine to undertake in-depth reforms, that constitute a real reinvention of government (Heeks, 1999):

  • A significant level of national debt
  • IT growth and ensuing market globalisation
  • Better informed and more demanding citizens.