The Contract System of Employment for Senior Government Officials

Experiences from the Caribbean

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This publication reviews the effects of the reforms implemented under the ‘new public management’ programme on the roles and conditions of service of permanent secretaries and directors in Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and St Lucia. These countries introduced the contract system of employment, and their experiences highlight the importance of acknowledging context in considering the implications of the contract system, and the challenges of implementation.




In the latter part of the 1970s and the 1980s the Government of the United Kingdom, under the then Prime Minister Mrs Margaret Thatcher, established the Efficiency Unit in the Prime Minister’s Office and this unit undertook an in-depth assessment of the public sector with a view to infusing private sector management culture and ethics into the management of state affairs. This policy experiment deepened as other aspects of the reform were introduced, for example the public financial management initiative which sought to achieve the following objectives: simplify financial reporting and accounting systems; establish clearer and stronger cost controls; clarify the links between programme and budgets of ministries; improve ministers’ ability to direct and control the senior public service officer cohort; and bring about transparency in government activities in areas of procurement and project management. Similar reforms took place in the United States of America under the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Over the following decades governments in some Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries have followed suit and restructured their systems, leading to a broad movement which came to be called the New Public Management Reform Movement. The application of these broad reform principles led to a shift from the traditional bureaucracy to make the administration of public affairs more results-oriented, emphasising among other things cost-effectiveness, customer service and high quality service provision, and making the terms of public employment more flexible. Flexible government is noted to be ‘opposed to the rigidities and conservatism attributed to permanent organisational structures and individuals with permanent, highly secure careers’ (Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2000: 127).


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