Public Administration of Developing Countries: Role and Characteristics


Public Administration is an institution  of central importance in almost all the countries in the world. It has emerged most impressively in the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America after they attained independence.

In these countries, the role of government and the nature of its tasks are no longer limited to minimum traditional functions of law and order, defence and revenue collection. The government in these countries are entrusted with developmental and national building activities. Since the developing countries are engaged in rapid socio-economic transformation under the leadership of government.

Characteristics of Public Administration of Developing Countries

The developing countries have inherited  their administrative systems from their ex-colonial rulers. Public Administration in the developing countries has certain general features, which are  indicative of its nature. The most important of them are briefly dealt with as under:

The imitative pattern of Public Administration: The basic pattern of Public Administration in the developing countries is imitative  rather than indigenous. Usually, the administrative system of developing country resembles that of its ex-colonial ruler of Western nation. The inherited  administrative system is authoritarian, elitist and distant from people.

An Acute shortage of skilled  and trained  manpower: The Bureaucracies  are deficient in skilled manpower necessary for developmental programmes. There is an acute shortage  of trained administrators with management capacity, developmental skills, people-oriented  outlook and technical competence.

Bureaucracy is very much concerned with non-productive operators: Much of bureaucratic activity in the developing countries is diverted  towards  the non-developmental goals and non-productive operations. Loyalty to the organisation or its mission is not a powerful ethic among the bureaucrats. They use administrative methods to extend their personal power without reference to the goals of the organisation.

Widespread discrepancy between form and reality in administrative practice: There is widespread discrepancy between form and reality, i.e., between the formally prescribed forms and their practice. Riggs has labelled this phenomenon ‘formalism’. Because of the ‘formalism’ the official behaviour of public officials behaviour of pubic officials does not correspond to the legal status although public officials insist on following laws, rules and regulations. Thus, bureaucracy in the developing countries is Weberian in form but not in content.

Operational autonomy: Bureaucracy in the developing countries enjoys an unusual degree of operational autonomy. This is because of bureaucracies near monopoly on technical expertise in administrative  matters. The bureaucrats enjoy maximum power without effective  control it. This is because constitutional accountability system in the developing countries lack implementation due to the politicization of administration.

Over-lapping in the political and administrative functions: There is also over-lapping in the political and administrative structures and in the interfere in the political policy making. This privilege they enjoy because the monopolize some central political functions and become the major interest group.

Role and Importance of Public Administration

Public Administration necessarily has a very crucial role to play. The role and importance of Public Administration can be studied under the following headings.

Public Administration has to meet the rising expectations of the people: In the developing countries, the people, especially the poor expect many things from government. The poor and weaker sections look to government to improve their lot and alleviate their misery. In response to the rising expectations of the people, governments of the developing countries has assumed enormous responsibilities to improve the social and economical conditions of the people. Hence, Public Administration of the developing countries provides the following socio-economics services: education, health care, safe drinking water, social security and so on.

Role in socio-economic development: The government of developing countries are under solemn obligation to bring about all-round development of their societies. Therefore, in these countries, Public Administration act as locomotive of economic development and social transformation. The government in these countries  have launched several programmes to develop agriculture and industries. To develop agriculture, Public Administration has to manage properly community resources such as land, water resources, forest and wetland and wasteland development. With review to encourage the development of industries, the governments of these countries are also providing infrastructure facilities such as roads, electricity, communications, market centre and the like.

Effective performance of traditional functions which support developmental effort: The traditional function of government to maintain law and order is a prerequisite for development. If there is no peace in society, there  is no development and no progress. The peace in developing societies is frequently  disturbed by the rising communal, ethnic, tribal and caste conflicts. Added to these are the terrorist activities. Hence, in the developing countries, maintenance of law and order has become extremely important for political stability and rapid growth of the economy. Further, majority of the people in developing societies  are most dependent on government for protection of life and survival. Maintenance of law and order, therefore, has to have  the highest priority in government business of developing countries.

Developing sense of nationhood: No nation can achieve socio-economic development without a sense of national unity. Most of the developing countries do not  have it. Several divisive forces such as communal and ethinic conflicts, caste feuds and regional rivalries often threaten the national unity, stability and progress in these countries. Therefore, the creation and preservation of national unity is a difficult and challenging task in the developing countries. In order to develop a sense of nationhood among the people of these countries,the bureaucrats have to resolve the sub-national and sub-cultural differences among the people. They have to manage crises resulting from social upheavals created by the various separatist terrorist and communal forces.

Help democracy to survive: In the developing countries, democracy is not strong enough to strike firm roots. To the people of many of these countries, democratic values and processes are quite new. They have no experience in managing, democratic institutions. These countries, therefore, need and administrative system that will help democracy survive with stability, balance and motivation to function smoothly.The civil servants in these country have an important role to play in maintaining democracy.They assist their political heads (Ministers) in policy making function. Once the ministers make policies ,it is again the duty of the civil servants to implement them faithfully and honestly to to realize their objectives. They have to play a critical role in building up credibility and public faith in their bonafides.

Impact of Developmental Activities on Public Administration: The new developmental activities and the administrative machinery created to carry on them have greatly expanded the scope of Public Administration both in its volume and range, and added to its significance as well. Its scope also extends to the activities relating to administrative  reforms, which aim at  strengthening administrative  capabilities. The recent policies of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation, however, resulted in the minimum state and reduced the scope of public administration as an activity.

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