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The study, using the recent contrasting experience of budget reform in Malaysia and Australia, inquires why quite similar changes were attempted in different socio-economic and fiscal settings. It explains why their implementation differed and identifies the factors that shaped, sustained, or impeded the respective efforts.

Three basic themes emerge. First, political and administrative will are necessary requirements for the success of any budget reform effort. Second, the more correspondent the bureaucratic culture is with the culture upon which the new budget system is premised, the more easily change occurs. Third, a model of reform predicated upon the assumption of fiscal restraint cannot effectively function in a climate of fiscal relaxation. Malaysia adapted its budget model from the Australian system. As the Australian model suited the paradigm of expenditure restraint, the adapted model proved less workable against the Malaysian climate of fiscal relaxation.