Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, February 18th, 2018

Afghan Public Sector and Challenges of Efficiency

Government of Afghanistan is under pressure to improve public sector performance and at the same time contain expenditure growth. While factors such as  wide spread corruption and the high rate of un-employment add to the people dissatisfaction and demanding that government be more accountable for that it achieves with Afghan and donors taxpayers’ money.
Government of Afghanistan has taken diverse approaches to reform key institution arrangements, which include: increasing devolution; HRM arrangements; changing budget practices and procedures; and introducing result based approaches to budgeting and management. Although the Afghan government has engaged in some institutional reforms, the empirical evidence of their impact on efficiency is so far limited due to: the lack of resources and capacities to conduct evaluations; the lack of pre-reform measures of performance; the lack of complexities in measuring efficiency in the public sector; and the problem of isolating the effects of specific institutional reforms on efficiency from other external influences.
Providing more public service with less public spending is an ongoing challenge for the Afghan government. Measuring public spending output is even more complex. The coverage and scope of public services differ across the country, partly reflecting societal priorities. These disparities require that public spending effectiveness be assessed by spending area, at least for key components, including education.
The Afghan government has carried out reforms to contain the growth in the public spending and improve spending outcomes since the early 2012. Reforms can be classed under the three broad headings:1) Making the budget process more responsive to priorities; 2) Making management practices more flexible, such that defined priorities are easier to achieve; 3) Strengthening competitive pressures among providers of public service and, where not incompatible with equity considerations, containing the demand for public services.
Because of important synergies among the three areas, getting the most out of these reforms would require that they be internally consistent.
Institutional drivers of efficiency in the public sector
The institutional arrangements that have been reviewed include: 1) Practices ensuring increased result orientation, such as budget practices and procedures and performance measurement arrangements; 2) Arrangements that increase flexibility, including devolution of functional and fiscal responsibilities from central to sub-national governments, human resource management arrangements; 3) Methods for strengthening competitive measures through privatization and other measures and 4) Various workforce issues, including workforce size, its composition, the extent and attractiveness of public sector.
While there has been a plethora of public sector reforms in Afghanistany; the research shows fewer success stories than have been claimed by practitioners. There are several reasons for this. First, research in this area is extremely complicated due to data availability issues, measurement difficulties, and the potential effect of many external factors on efficiency and productivity (the attribution problem). Second, reforms are often driven by ideological considerations and management fads rather than efficiency concerns. Third, Practitioners often have a vested interest in the success of reforms and may over-claim their impact. Fourth, governments launches reform to evaluating them. Finally, there could be substantial differences between the short-run and long-run effects of these reforms, such as efficiency gains discussed over time. ­
To sum it up, public sector reform is one of the top priorities of the government of Afghanistan; Afghanistan has made great progress in terms of public sector reform. This process started based on the 2001 Bon Conference, and has continued to present and the public sector reform is in the center of the Afghan president. However, reform as a process has its own challenges anywhere, and it has complicated challenges in the context of Afghanistan too. The success of public sector to optimize its efficiency, the Afghan government not only needs a practical public sector reform strategy but also calls for political will at the various levels in this sector.