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November 19, 2007

Public Finance Reference Reading: Revisiting the Classics — Schick's Contemporary Approach to PEM (1998)

Posted by Bill Dorotinsky

As public finance professionals, we are frequently asked for useful background reading to better understand public financial mangement systems. Thankfully, there are a number of classic works still highly relevant and 'must reads' for anyone interested in the topic. Occasionally, we will post references to these documents as a service to our readers.

The first suggested reading is "A Contemporary Approach to Public Expenditure Management" by Dr. Allen Schick (World Bank Institute, 1998). In the book (available for free electronically in PDF format - click on the hot-link above), Dr. Schick uses the three objectives of any public finance system (aggregate fiscal discipline, allocative efficiency, and operational efficiency) to organize his analysis. In each section, Dr. Schick explores the common problems encountered by countries, and how these have been 'solved' in different contexts (including long-standing and more innovative 'New Zealand'-style approaches).

Instead of focusing only on dry processes, Dr. Schick tries to explore the incentives and dynamcs at work through a three-point analytic framework -- looking at the Rules, Roles, and Information institutional arrangements and how these support or undermine the three public finance objectives.

Despite being nearly a decade old, the book is as relevant and useful today as when published. Definitely a recommended read.

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