The paradigm trap

In my research I’ve been critical of the influence of New Public Management (NPM) on government, and on e-government.  Another recent paper I’ve discovered that supports my view and also strongly criticizes the producer-customer paradigm that NPM enforced upon government, is by Hazman Shah Abdullah & Maniam Kailianan, Universiti Teknologi, Mara, Malaysia.

The paper, “From Customer Satisfaction to Citizen Satisfaction: Rethinking Local Government Service Delivery in Malaysia” from Asian Social Sciences, Vol 4, No. 11, Nov 2008, is essentially asking that rather than the producer-customer paradigm, government employs a government-citizen paradigm, which is more appropriate.

As the paper states on page 89 “The Government-Citizen Paradigm encapsulates the essence of the Producer-Customer Paradigm but offers more opportunities and scope for the improvement process. It focuses on the services as well as the policies, on the instrumental values as well as social and political values and it serves the customer but also highlights their role as citizens.”

Matters in Malaysia are obviously little different from the western world when the authors highlight that:

“There is increasing evidence that the new generation raised in an economically munificent environment with limited participation in civic and political affairs especially at the local level, is all too happy with and, at times, consumed with modern technology and self, and is disconnected with the government (Putnam, 2000). If this trend continues, local government will be deprived of its representative quality. Without continuous and massive citizen engagement with government, administrative state is likely to rise to the fore. Salaried professional officers will become, by default, policy makers removing policy from the realm of politics to administrative experts.”

This is something the last government tried (unsuccessfully, in my view) to resolve and which the latest administration claims to want to deal with. An additional observation in the paper, page 90, is that “Collective and sustainable satisfaction should be given greater premium than immediate and individual satisfaction. The market-based model promotes a contrarian view and value system.”

Whilst it’s sad to realize that the tentacles of NPM embraced the world, it’s good to see that solutions are being sought in every nook and cranny to engaging the populace in their governance.


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