Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Benchmarking Sweden

Election season in Sweden brought out a wide range of promise posters. Unfortunately after eight years in power for the ruling coalition (Moderates, Kristdemokraterna, Center & Folkpartiet) many voters will question bold political promises by Alliance weasels.

"From now we will do this." Maybe... Why not in the last eight years?

Folkpartiet seems the biggest pack of liars - suddenly "strong for education" when their present policies have created the money-grubbing struggling school system...

I'd like to see a major expansion of non-partisan benchmarking studies by government. Surely many of the lessons of Norway, Denmark and Finland are useful to Sweden, as well as systems and experiments in other parts of Europe and elsewhere.

We need data & reliable studies backing policy. Moderaterna are like smiling salespeople - nice, but citizens shouldn't forget they work for their own profit and will stretch truth to make a sale. We need facts and more transparency.

Instead of struggling after shrinking budgets, survey & evaluation activities should be greatly expanded at Statskontoret (Swedish Agency for Public Management). Hire hundreds more analysts, preferably including many "new Swedes" with overseas training and experience, and on a project basis fund dozens more studies by external researchers. Publish these analyses online in English to be useful as well for other nations.

Japan developed a great system of Special Zones for Structural Reform (構造改革特区) allowing local areas and small-scale citizen groups to test new ideas & initiatives under careful evaluation. If successful, wider national implementation could follow.

Sweden has many such possibilities for deregulation. A simple example is cellar-door wine & liqueur sales by local producers. Finland has instituted such a system; at what cost & with what benefits? Such experiments promise to boost local & regional tourism, but with monitoring and a proper benchmarking study we could & should know specific details, instead of politicized half-truths and rumors.

Statskontoret should be renamed, revamped & better funded.
"Public management" and public administration are now nasty words to laissez-faire capitalists. "Swedish Agency for Policy Analysis" is a better name. Sweden can usefully build its reputation as an analytic & scientific nation.