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Figure 17. Public expenditure on education and student reading literacy

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Policies to strengthen growth in national income



67



teacher unions from setting centralised curricula,58 school autonomy in hiring

teachers and determining the pattern of pay and promotions, and competition

from private schools. Centralised exams make it easier to tell whether poor results

are the student’s or the teacher’s “fault”, thereby making the system more transparent for parents, future employers and the government, and resulting in greater

effort by students, teachers and headmasters. Luxembourg has centralised exams

at the end of upper secondary school level and the government has installed an

“observatory of quality” at the ministry. However, school autonomy, which is seen

as an important instrument to allow schools to react better to individual problems

of students and classes, should be improved. The issue of which powers exactly

should be left to schools and which others are best decided upon centrally needs

to be further clarified in the current debate. From the standpoint of economic

incentives, some key decisions relating to performance standards and the content

of curricula should remain with the central government, supported by pedagogic

experts, in order to reduce staff’s temptation to use autonomy to reduce their

workload. The same is true for the budget envelope because it sets the standard

for efficient use of resources. At the same time, schools and even teachers should

remain free in how to achieve their performance and efficiency standards, suggesting that recruitment of teachers, salary policy, purchase of books and other supply

should be decided by the school.59 A new draft bill partly follows these guidelines

by granting schools an overall budget envelope to be disposed of and some

administrative autonomy in organising classes through “learning quotas”. On the

other hand, it decentralises 10 per cent of the curriculum. Furthermore, several

pilot projects have been launched to promote pedagogic autonomy and find out

best practices to reduce barriers to learning. Finally, competition from the private

sector is low as independent private schools do not exist and only 12 per cent of

students are enrolled in government-dependent private schools. Together with all

stakeholders the government should allow internationally identified best

practices to spill over into national policy, be they pedagogic innovations or performance-enhancing institutional rearrangements.

Increasing the efficiency with which government achieves its objectives

Increasing the efficiency with which government achieves its objectives

would help to attenuate the decline in growth in national income. Less tax

revenue would be required to finance government activities to achieve these

objectives and, where they are to be achieved through regulating private sector

activity, the burden of such regulation would be lighter. Although Luxembourg has

begun to examine ways in which government efficiency could be increased, little

progress has been made to date compared with other OECD countries. In part,

this may be because high growth in government revenue in recent decades took

pressure off the government to find more efficient ways to achieve its objectives, a

situation that is unlikely to persist in the future.



© OECD 2003



68



OECD Economic Surveys: Luxembourg



Greater use should be made of cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis

Cost-benefit or at least cost-effectiveness analyses are vital tools for

government to achieve its objectives efficiently. Yet neither is used to any great

extent in Luxembourg. Cost-benefit analysis is almost never undertaken and the

stunning differences in marginal costs of achieving given objectives, such as for

climate change (see below), suggest that cost-effectiveness considerations are not

given much weight either. Much greater use should be made of both tools. In doing

so, the objectives that government is seeking to achieve would need to be clearly

identified, providing an essential input for public sector management reforms and

decisions on whether production needs to be in the public sector to achieve them.

Public sector management reforms, contracting out and privatisation

Reforms are underway or being considered to increase public sector

efficiency by: shifting to accrual accounting, which is important for holding public

sector managers accountable for their actions; creating units with greater managerial independence and accountability (although concerning only a small part of

government expenditure); and budgeting for programmes rather than types of

expenditure. These reforms represent the first building blocks in a systemic

reform that would be required to increase public sector efficiency substantially.

While some progress has also been made in contracting out services for

which enforceable contracts can be written relatively easily, there remains considerable scope to achieve economies through further contracting out. For example,

some 70 per cent of Luxembourg City bus services are now provided privately.

Further savings could be made by contracting out the remaining publicly provided

services, both through strengthened incentives for efficient management and

through market-determined wage rates: government sector bus drivers are paid

much higher wage rates than their private sector counterparts. Community service

obligations do not provide a rationale for continued public sector provision: these

obligations can be included in the contracts made with private sector operators.

Luxembourg has not privatised former public sector monopolies, in

contrast to most other OECD countries. In particular, the incumbent telecommunications operator, Luxembourg P&T, remains 100 per cent government owned.

Similarly, postal services remain firmly in government ownership. It is not clear

that the community service obligations that these enterprises may have necessitate public ownership to achieve them. Nor does the need to regulate a natural

monopolist, as this is the responsibility of the Luxembourg Institute of Regulation

(l’Institut luxembourgeois de régulation). One of the consequences of continued public

ownership can be excessive salaries and hence costs of service provision. For

example, a postman earns € 5 000 per month towards the end of his career, far in

excess of salaries for workers with similar skill levels in the private sector. Another

is that competition is undermined in the relevant market because public



© OECD 2003



Policies to strengthen growth in national income



69



ownership confers on these enterprises a superior credit rating. The authorities

would do well to clearly identify the objectives being pursued in the fields of telecommunications and postal services and to consider the most efficient means of

achieving them. A problem with privatising these enterprises is that employees

enjoy salaries and job security superior to what they could expect in the private

sector. It could well be necessary to grandfather these advantages to advance with

privatisation. At least this way, future employment contracts would not contain the

substantial rent components in many current contracts.

E-government

E-government – defined as the use of ICTs, particularly the Internet, as a

tool to achieve better government (OECD, 2003c) – provides another means for

government to improve the efficiency with which it achieves its objectives, including

by reducing the administrative burden (see below). Internet-based applications can

generate savings on data collection and transmission, especially through greater

sharing of data within and between governments, provision of information and communication with customers (ibid.). Luxembourg has made considerable progress in

implementing e-government since its e-government project was launched in

January 200160 but still lags all other EU countries (European Commission, 2003a)

(Figure 18). On average, Luxembourg is still close to the stage of providing information, corresponding with an indicator of 25, but remains far off the higher levels that

entail the exchange of information by e-mail (50 points), declarations provided with

an electronic signature (75 points) or a full exploitation of all electronic possibilities

(Cap Gemini Ernst and Young, 2002). In a recent government survey on

e-government,61 only a quarter of users said they were satisfied with the electronic

information they got and half of the respondents said that they had problems with

the readability of official information. In addition, much information was not

available in the language users preferred. Survey respondents said that they would

be particularly interested in having on-line tax forms and the possibility to renew

identity cards and register changes in their civil status electronically.

The lack of progress in implementing e-government compared with other

EU governments seems to reflect a complicated consultative structure to deal with

questions of responsibilities and accountability and a cautious approach to guaranteeing privacy and confidentiality. Many parties have to give their views on each

plan,62 reflecting a preference of the government for fully worked out blueprints

over experiments with a less certain outcome, and arrangements to secure information adequately will not be in place until the end of 2004.63 The sharing of competences between central government and municipalities has also been a barrier

to progress in some fields, such as registering changes in civil status. An additional

problem has been the lack of ICT experts to implement initiatives once they have

been decided.



© OECD 2003



OECD Economic Surveys: Luxembourg



70



Figure 18. Degree of sophistication of on-line public services

Per cent



Per cent



100

90



100

October 2002

October 2001



90



80



80



70



70



60



60



50



50



40



40



30



30



20



20



10



10



0



0

SWE IRL



DNK



FIN



NOR



ESP



FRA



GBR



PRT



ITA



AUT



NLD



ISL



GRC



CHE



DEU



BEL



LUX



Source: European Commission, 2003a.



The government has raised the budget to buy hardware and software, to

intensify ICT training, to develop interactive sites and to promote e-government.

Every government ministry should have a home-page in line with the recently

adopted templates by the end of 2003 (Ministry of public service and administrative reform, 2003). New sites are being developed for VAT, the national population

register (Registre National des personnes physiques), government staff recruitment

(Recrutement du Personnel de l’État), the business and company register (Registre de

Commerce et des Sociétés), public procurement (Marchés publics en ligne) and job

vacancies. In addition, a single-window interface for businesses is being developed (see below). The government expects that the spreading of e-government

now underway, through the stages of interaction and electronic declarations, will

raise the score of Luxembourg on the EU scoreboard every six months by some

10 points.

To reap efficiency gains from the more sophisticated stages of

e-government that the government is now beginning to develop, it will be

necessary to adopt a clear client focus and to make complementary organisational

changes, as in the private sector.64 Successful e-services require an understanding

of user requirements and presentation of a seamless online service – users should

not have to understand complex government structures and relationships to



© OECD 2003



Policies to strengthen growth in national income



71



benefit from such services. Current frameworks based on the assumption that

agencies work alone (e.g. performance management, accountability frameworks

and the prohibition of data sharing) need to be modified so that they do not

inhibit collaboration. And internal governance frameworks need to be reformed to

facilitate greater teamwork, flexibility in working arrangements and remuneration

and enhanced knowledge management practices. Finally, the government should

consider e-government as an investment requiring new management rules and

procedures, clear responsibilities and continued evaluation on the basis of user

feedback [Social and Economic Council (CES), 2001a].65

Administrative reform

The administrative burden in Luxembourg appears to be relatively high. A

higher percentage of SMEs consider that the administrative burden is a major

constraint for business performance than they do in most other EU countries

(Figure 19). The start-up of an enterprise – finding out which specific regulations

are relevant in each case, understanding the norms, working out the specific

actions they entail – requires more preparatory work in Luxembourg than in most

other EU countries. In 2001, the registration of an individual enterprise took



Figure 19. SMEs reporting administrative burdens as a major constraint

on business performance

Per cent



Per cent



25



25

1999

2001



20



20



15



15



10



10



5



5



0



DEU



DNK



FRA



LUX



NLD



Source: European Commission, 2001.



© OECD 2003



BEL



AUT



GBR



FIN



EU



SWE



GRC



ITA



ESP



IRL



PRT



0



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