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The value of ICTs is not restricted to the executive branch of government. ICTs have also transformed the ways in which the legislature and the public communicate with each other. The internet, email and mobile phones allow stakeholders to access information and submit views and evidence to legislators in new ways, including blogs and web-forums where people can post their views. The Red Tape Challenge launched in April 2001 by the UK Government made use of a designated website for the public to have their say about red tape, and to seek ideas from businesses and civil society by collecting suggestions and examples of unnecessary and obsolete regulations which should be repealed. These mechanisms complement traditional media engagement, as people often obtain information about parliaments and politics from television, radio and newspapers. Issues of concern relating to legislation are often covered in the media and this coverage can be utilised to call for evidence and opinions.
The use of ICTs provides opportunities for enhancing participation and social inclusion - but also raise important challenges for governments. First is the issue of government accountability when responsibilities and risks are shared with or transferred to citizens. Second is the risk that less vocal citizens or those “willing but unable” do not participate, thereby reducing instead of strengthening inclusiveness. The challenge is to adopt new policies and strategies to harness ICT in order to facilitate forms of public engagement that allow the provision of equal opportunities to all citizens’ groups, including by focusing on using new technologies to increase access, avoiding the creation of new forms of digital divide, and attracting disaffected groups such as youth. Third, there is a need to develop capacity – both of government and citizens - to understand and use these collaborative models effectively.
Moving forward with reform to build inclusive institutions
Sustained pursuit of Inclusive Growth may require significant changes to institutions and political processes in many countries. When it comes to politics and policy, institutions can empower some, while marginalising others. In the economic sphere, they influence the resources and opportunities that individuals and groups can access in seeking to better their lives. Where the “rules of the game” are more exclusive to begin with, promoting inclusion is likely to be harder. Moreover, since institutions usually evolve slowly, they often reflect past distributions of power and wealth, leaving some groups marginalised in terms of access, participation and benefits. The issue, then, is whether current institutions and processes are “fit for purpose” when it comes to pursuing Inclusive Growth. Where they are not, reform is needed to move institutions and processes toward the good practices highlighted in this chapter.
Promoting more Inclusive Growth can often be hardest to realise in the areas it is needed most.
The intended beneficiaries of such policies are, by definition, under-represented in the policy process. As a result, their needs or views may be inadequately integrated into the design of reform. This is also important when it comes to implementation. Since policy effectiveness depends in part on social acceptance, even well-intentioned and well-designed reforms can encounter difficulties if the intended beneficiaries feel mistrustful of, or alienated from, the reform process.
The political economy of reform is particularly important for the design and implementation of Inclusive Growth strategies at the national level. As discussed previously, it is important to put in place an inclusive decision making process that is preserved from capture by interest groups, gives voice to various stakeholders, and reflects the needs and demands of the population. In addition, effective policy design needs to be complemented by additional steps so that, once designed, reforms can be implemented successfully, reach the targeted groups and deliver on the intended objectives. OECD work on “making reform happen” points to a number of lessons that are relevant for the pursuit of reforms targeting social
inclusion.65 In particular:
It is important to have an electoral mandate for reform. It is not enough to win an election or command a majority in the legislature. It also matters a great deal if the government has made the case for reform to the voters ahead of an election. If the electoral process itself discourages inclusion, such processes may need to be reformed first. Giving voice to outsiders is critical to building the political momentum needed to make other institutions more inclusive.
Clear communication of the long-term objectives of reform and inclusive, consultative processes pay dividends over time. Effective communication with stakeholders involves listening to their concerns and may result in some modification of reform proposals. Institutions that facilitate such communication processes can improve the quality of reform proposals, as well as prospects for their adoption. Inclusive, consultative policy processes are no guarantee against conflict, but they seem to contribute to greater trust among the parties involved. Here, too, basic institutional work may be needed to shore up the policy process, since those whom inclusive policies seek to help may, ex ante, be more difficult to reach via communications and consultation processes. They are likely to be less well-resourced, less informed and less organised, and in many cases they may already feel alienated from established institutions.
An evidence-based and analytically sound case for reform serves both to improve the quality of policy and to enhance prospects for reform adoption. It is particularly important to identify
strategies for making growth inclusive rather than pursuing inclusion at the expense of growth:
this will greatly soften the distributional conflicts involved.
Strong leadership – whether by an individual or an institution charged with carrying out a reform – plays a major role as a steward of change. However, this should not be read as endorsing a top-down approach or a preference for unilateral action. The experience of several countries suggests that successful leadership is often about winning consent rather than overcoming opposition or securing compliance.
Pilot programmes and experimentation can be encouraged where best practice is not clear, and/or where learning is required. Pilot programmes and innovations tried in one place in government (e.g. in a particular ministry or agency, at a sub-national level of government) can help to identify the pros and cons of different approaches, revealing useful practices that can be scaled up and institutionalised.
More haste can make for less speed. Inclusive policy processes can take time, and policy makers may fear that the emphasis on inclusive and consultative processes will delay – or even block – urgent reforms. However, OECD work on reforms in pensions, labour markets and product markets suggests that successful structural reforms take time, and many of the least successful reform attempts under study failed in part because they were undertaken in haste. In a number of cases the rush to act led to erroneous decisions, based on in adequate information, or strengthened opposition to reform because important affected groups were left out of the process (Tompson, 2009). In the long run, inclusiveness may avoid the delays, setbacks and errors that may emerge from closed decision-making processes.
Keeping actors on board over time is critical. The emphasis on avoiding haste stands in contrast to arguments that have long been advanced about the need for reformers to move fast, at times masking their intentions, in an effort to advance reforms before reform opponents can react.66 However, such strategies typically prevail when reforms are adopted in crisis conditions and when they bear fruit quickly, as for example, when a stabilisation policy is imposed in the face of hyperinflation and rapidly restores macroeconomic balance. Structural reforms rarely bear fruit so quickly, and the evidence presented in Tompson (2009) and OECD (2010b) across a wide range of policy sectors suggests that sustained engagement with stakeholders, via inclusive policy making, is often critical to sustaining structural reforms that may need time to mature.
Political strategies are not the only source of change. Economic, social and demographic changes may themselves lead to changes in the distribution of voice and preferences across society, empowering previously marginalised groups. Over time, they are able to make better use of existing institutions as well as to shape new ones. This has been the experience, to a greater or lesser extent, of many countries with respect to women or the growing economic and social clout of immigrants or other minorities. However, the process is not automatic: these underlying changes in the socio-economic landscape may create conditions more favourable to inclusive reforms, but someone still has to make those reforms happen.
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