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Leadership Avoidance by Central Budget Agencies: A Social Constructivist Comparison of the Irish Department of Finance and the New Zealand Treasury

Author: JOE WALLIS
Published in PFM, Vol. 11 No. 4

When viewed from a social constructivist perspective, advisory agencies have opportunities to take the lead in interpreting policy reality so as to develop ministerial respect. They will seek to enhance their technocratic capacity when they face either delegative political leaders or an unpredictable succession of political styles but, as has been the case with the Irish Department of Finance, their motivation to do so may diminish when they are confronted with a strong deliberative political culture. This explains why this agency can be unfavorably compared with the New Zealand Treasury in providing leadership in strategy formulation and public service modernization. The Treasury did, however, develop a bias toward interpreting problems as requiring ‘tame’ solutions through the application of its in-house economic expertise – a rendition that was more successful in terms of generating sustaining and replicable models in the area of fiscal responsibility than in that of contractualist public management.

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