The Politics of Administrative Reform in East and Southeast Asia: From Gridlock to Continuous Self-Improvement?
Article first published online: 24 MAY 2004
Volume 17, Issue 3, pages 361–386, July 2004
How to Cite
Painter, M. (2004), The Politics of Administrative Reform in East and Southeast Asia: From Gridlock to Continuous Self-Improvement?. Governance, 17: 361–386. doi: 10.1111/j.0952-1895.2004.00250.x
- Issue published online: 24 MAY 2004
- Article first published online: 24 MAY 2004
This article compares patterns and outcomes of administrative reform in four countries: Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand. It focuses on the supply side, that is, on reform implementation. It is assumed that bureaucrats, upon whom implementation depends, have an interest in controlling the process. A distinction is made between two types of bureaucratic systems—autonomous and instrumental—according to structural features that increase the potential to block reforms. Four possible patterns of administrative reform are distinguished according to whether demand is high or low, and whether the bureaucracy can be classed as autonomous or instrumental. More broadly, it is argued that supply will be lower in autonomous bureaucratic systems. A comparative case study method is applied to test this model, and the proposition is not disconfirmed. Malaysia and Singapore, both classed as instrumental bureaucracies, demonstrate a predictable style of “continuous administrative self-improvement.” The status of the bureaucracy in Thailand and Taiwan is in transition, and the model is used to analyze changes in reform patterns over time and to suggest future trajectories.