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The Intriguing Brazilian Administrative Reform

Francisco Gaetani

The passage of the amendment to the constitution which resulted in the management reform of the Brazilian public administration under President Fernando Henrique Cardoso is discussed. The evolution of the bill through the executive agenda and the legislative bodies is described and how strategies followed by Bresser Pereira, the main reform advocate, have been effective.

The reform of the structure and the organisation of the public administration conducted in Brazil during Fernando Henrique Cardoso's first term was the focus of attention not only by developing countries, but also international co-operation agencies. Undertaking the reform was possible thanks to the passage of a constitutional amendment whereby the conditions needed to implement a public management model were set.

The reform was based on the experience of countries such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand which adopted the proposals of the New Public Management - NPM. However, the differences among such nations and Brazil are noted, namely: a parliamentary body in Brazil that endangered the proposal`s progress due to the need of a majority vote in a system characterised by political fragmentation. The ability of Bresser Pereira -appointed by President Cardoso to head the newly born Ministry of State Reform Administration (MARE)- is highlighted. Bresser Pereira's performance should be noted, both with regard to the strategies he adopted to implement the reform proposal at the executive and legislative levels, and also with regard to the different business and leadership roles efficiently played by him.

The extremely successful development of this proposal may be explained knowingly or circumstantially by the occurrence of a number of institutional and non-institutional issues. Linking the proposal with the government macro-economic programmes and the statement about administration reform being necessary for effective economic reforms secured the support of various key ministries and public opinion. Hence, the amendment was approved with virtually no opposition. Some implications of the Brazilian experience may be implemented in countries that are going through state reform. On the one hand, developing countries can adopt a managerial trend that in many cases is away from NPM and from theorists. On the other hand, the significant role played by Bresser Pereira should be acknowledged, since it shows the business potential of a top public servant in a seemingly adverse environment.

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