With his high trust ratings, Pres. Noynoy Aquino has the political capital to pursue the streamlining and reform of the bureaucracy at least of the Executive branch of government. If he will seize the opportunity, the clear and ultimate target of bureaucratic reform should be the significant and sustainable reduction of rural and urban poverty in the short and medium terms. Thus, any reform should raise efficiency in, and free more resources for, the delivery of basic services in primary health care, disease prevention, basic education, and agricultural and entrepreneurship development.
Bureaucratic reform should preserve also the capability of the State to practice its core competencies: ensure peace and order, administer justice, set monetary policy, ensure territorial integrity and security, practice diplomacy and pursue beneficial international relations.
Outside of its core competencies and poverty-reduction programs, State activities should be tantamount to “steering” and not “rowing,” or the creation of an enabling and regulatory environment for the private sector to do the “rowing” in providing goods and services to the public especially where the private sector is more efficient in doing so.
Any bureaucratic reform should respect the right of government workers to protection against unemployment. Any reform that cannot avoid job losses should be implemented in a humane way.
In my view, these are the characteristics of agencies and units that bureaucratic reform should prioritize: (a) agencies and units that contribute little to poverty reduction, (b) units that do not belong to the core competencies of the State, (c) units that do more “rowing” than “steering,” and (d) units that do not require an act of Congress for its reform, abolition, or merger with another unit.