NISPAcee Annual Conference
Tallinn University of Technology
Riin Savi, Ragnar Nurkse School of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, Estonia
The Role of Agencies and Street Level Workers in Cutback Management: Comparing the Cases of Estonia and Latvia
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Abstract not available
After the outburst of the recent economic crisis governments all over the world have been challenged to cope with sharp economic downturn and related social effects. The new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe were among those hit hardest by the crisis (see e.g. Bideleux, 2011; Dabrowski, 2010; Peters et al., 2011; Staehr, 2010). Also Estonia and Latvia witnessed severe recession and both governments applied extreme consolidation measures to overcome the crisis. The government of Estonia applied budgetary consolidation measures across three sequential negative state budgets improving the budgetary position by ca 8 per cent and ca 3 per cent in 2009 and 2010, respectively (OECD, 2011). Similarly to Estonia, Latvian government enacted altogether six budgetary consolidation packages in four years (two in 2009, one in 2011, two in 2011, and one in 2012), that altogether amounted to ca 17 per cent of GDP. As a result of implemented consolidation measures, some of the government agencies were closed down (e.g. in Latvia the number of agencies was reduced from 79 to 25), while for other agencies it meant significant cuts of operational budgets.
The agencies were empowered to find the specific items of cuts to achieve the set level of savings.
The current paper aims to focus on the main coping strategies of government agencies and investigate thereby the role of street-level organizations in crisis time policy making. The more specific aim is to find out how the agencies managed achieving crisis time policy goals and providing public services in time of extreme fiscal stress. Due to the social effects of the economic crisis, the effects of the crisis were particularly well articulated in the area of welfare service provision. Hence, the focus of empirical research of the current paper is on the effect of coping strategies on daily delivery of public goods/services in frontline agencies involved in welfare provision.
We intend to explore the role and responsibilities of agencies in the cutback management by addressing the cutback strategies undertaken and shift in centralization and politicization of the decision-making environment when compared to the pre-crisis period. The study makes use of numerous policy documents, semi-structured expert interviews with relevant civil servants engaged in the cutback decision-making and its implementation, press releases and newspaper articles.