Managing civil service reform in Thailand, 1980-1999 : analytic narratives
The thesis seeks to explain change and stability in 'civil service policy' in Thailand between 1980 and 1999, by focusing on two issue areas relating to public sector human resource management: civil service downsizing and civil service pension reform. The thesis departs from the institutionalist research tradition, which explains administrative change using the concept of 'administrative reform capacity'. It argues that the static view of reform capacity advocated by institutionalists including Knill's ideal type constellations of administrative reform capacity needs to be re-conceptualised if it is to be analytically useful in accounting for variations in the trajectories and outcomes of civil service policy reform in Thailand across twenty-year period of this study and between case studies. To advance Knill's concept, the thesis take into account the processual view of public management policy change to develop a more flexible institutional processualist theoretical compass. The thesis adopts an 'analytic narrative instrumental case study' research design, which can accommodate inquiries from both institutional and processual research traditions. Drawing on evidence from two narrative case studies, this thesis develops process understanding and explanations for the dynamics of civil service policy making by shedding light on the analytical components of reform process: agenda setting, alternative specification and decision making. It argues that a combination of institutional and processual factors shape these processes, which results in variations in trajectories and outcomes in different episodes within the two case studies. Based on the narrative evidence, the thesis re-interprets the three main elements of Knill's concept of reform capacity - strength of executive leadership, entrenchment of administrative arrangement and political influence of the bureaucracy. It argues that for 'reform capacity' to explain public management policy change, the relationships between the three elements and between them and the dynamics contexts and situations faced by reformers need to be taken into account. The thesis elaborates two general approaches to civil service reform - the techno - bureaucratic and the political - and their dualities, which can be found in the principal reform actors, reform issues, reform process and mechanisms. It is the tensions between these elements and the reform context that affects the trajectories and outcomes of reform in Thailand - limited piecemeal public management policy change.