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martes 18 julio, 2017 12:18
   BLOG, Gobernanza

Italian public administration fails Oxford University’s exams

The long and winding road of Italy’s public administration reform —

Mirco Tonin and Francesco Trebbi – 

Italian Minister of Public Administration and Simplification, Marianna Madia

On a scale in which 100 is the technological frontier of how a public administration can manage regulation of an advanced country, human resources, incentives, public services and transparency of decision processes (Canada and New Zealand came out on top), Italy is at 20. The average of advanced economies is 60. These are the new figures recently published by the International Civil Service Effectiveness (InCiSE) Index of the University of Oxford’s school of government. The InCiSE compares the state civil service of 31 countries, including 22 European states. It uses indicators from various sources and summarizes the results in an index of administrative efficiency. Italy comes out in 27th place, in front of only the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary and Slovakia.

There has been lots of discussion about the productivity of Italian companies and of how to stimulate their growth. Based on the sector, the interactions with the public administration represent a variable cost factor which influences the calculation of labor productivity of companies in a direct way. Based on this index, that cost factor could be five times higher for an Italian company compared to a Canadian firm.

Along with the new InCiSE, the Doing Business (DB) report developed by the World Bank is one of the main indicators of indirect costs imposed on companies by the bad management of the public administration. Renzi’s government aimed to improve Italy’s rating in various DB indicators. In DB2017 (data updated to June 1, 2016), Italy was positioned at number 33 among the 57 high-income countries (and at number 50 in the complete rankings of the 190 countries examined).

Ex-prime Minister Matteo Renzi and minister Marianna Madia

Returning to the InCiSE, not all factors are negative. The Italian public administration is above the average for gender equality policies, in strong contrast to the private labor market in Italy which still discriminates heavily against women. The Italian public administration does well, coming in above the average, also for its capacity for crisis management, an indicator that includes the capacity to plan, communicate, monitor risks and post-crisis coordination and assessment. Social security was also good. But (too) many other factors are negative or only positive on the surface.

Let us consider human resources. Quality of people is a fundamental factor for effective administration. The capacity to attract and maintain talented people in the civil service implies remuneration which can compete with the private sector for similar positions, and meritocratic access channels rather than a system built on clientelism. These two mechanisms are still completely disconnected in Italy.

Public office workers


The salaries of Italian public administrators are among the most generous of OECD countries, especially at the management level. But Italy is positioned in last place for the level of competence of personnel, measured by the level of education, linguistic and mathematical competence, and capacity to resolve complex problems. Here the public administration is a faithful mirror of the country, seeing as the average abilities of Italian adults are among the lowest in high-income countries.

Faced with the low quality of services, the high salaries seem more a symptom of advantageous positions rather than well-calibrated incentives. The evaluations that come well below the EU average for favoritism in the public administration, perceived corruption and impartiality in the management of services support this consideration.

Another sore point of the state apparatus is the limited management ability: the bad management of our public administration is hampering the private economy.




Mirco Tonin and Francesco Trebbi | *Mirco Tonin is a professor of political economy at the University of Bolzano | **Francesco Trebbi is a professor of economics at the University of British Columbia | italy24.ilsole24ore.com | © ITALY EUROPE 24

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