Case 2: Thailand in 1986 and 1997
Another fellow member of Asean, Thailand in 1995-96 was experiencing slowing economic growth and a succession of weak and short-lived governments. In this environment, the government at that time chose not a far-reaching top-down national transformation, but a technocrat-driven attempt to honor Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda’s 1986 commitment to “cut the red tape, but this time not lengthwise.”
Because Thailand ranked low on both government authority and economic anxiety, we characterized it at the time as “fatalistic.” It took another 11 years before a foreign consulting firm, US-based Booz Allen Hamilton, supported by the then independent and prestigious Office of the Civil Service Commission (OCSC), was helping the prime minister’s office. The approach used to attack Thailand’s red tape came from the private sector and the project became the “Re-engineering of Government.” Unlike Singapore’s top-down command model, this program was driven below the level of the divided cabinet and, along with the OCSC, key ministries were selected in a negotiated “coalition of the willing” to streamline, improve service levels and enhance transparency.
Case 3: South Korea
In 1996, South Korea was facing economic challenges a full year before the Asian financial crisis hit. The complexity of public and private sector stakeholders, a population without a shared sense of crisis and a less authoritarian political system required a different approach. The outcome of the initial diagnostic by Booz Allen Hamilton (I served on the advisory team) was a truly national, stakeholder-driven and media-supported process called “Vision Korea.” With strong stakeholder support, this process moved fast to prioritize recommendations and translate them into action. The effectiveness of this process contributed to the relative success of the South Korean government in navigating the 1997 crisis.