Government performance is a major concern of citizens and policymakers of many countries. Even though the characteristics of the political systems and the policy goals of countries may differ, policymakers in most countries still want cost-efficient delivery of public services and effective accomplishment of policy objectives. The pressure to have an efficient and effective government is especially strong today, when most national economies are highly integrated into a global economic system and countries have to stay competitive to attract investment and global talents.
Achieving more efficient and effective public services depends not only on the technical skills of public servants, but also on the governance structure of public administration. For example, how government agencies work with businesses, nonprofit organizations, and community groups, how government officials relate to the average citizen and solicit public input in policy design and implementation, how government agencies are being held accountable for results and performance, how the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government work together to provide sufficient checks and balances against corruption, fraud, and abuse of power, and how national and subnational governments work together to set policies and use public resources can all have a significant impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of public programs and spending. Furthermore, a country’s values about the roles of the government and normative thinking about the responsibilities of individuals and government officials in society may also shape how governmental institutions function and what organizational norms are adopted to influence policy execution and the daily operation of agencies.
Hence, when many governments in the world are striving to achieve greater cost-efficiency and effectiveness in public programs and trying to do more with less in the current fiscal environment, policymakers and public administration researchers need to think beyond technical efficiency concerns and consider how the efficiency and effectiveness of public programs are related to these the governance context. It is in this context that comparative research is valuable and necessary. For the past two decades, many developing countries have tried to follow Western models and pursue new public management reforms or results-oriented management. While this global diffusion of reform ideas and trends of isomorphic institutional change have successfully led to numerous reform initiatives in different countries (Asian Development Bank, 2009; Mimba, et al. 2013; Wescott and Jones, 2007; Wescott, et al. 2009), some studies have questioned whether these reforms have significantly impacted the actual performance of government programs and transformed the practice of governmental institutions (Christensen, 2012; Gupta, 2005; 2010; Ho and Im, 2013; Im, 2010).