The Asian Leadership Forum (ALF) segment of the annual conference is the brainchild of Prof. Akira Nakamura. During the session, he announced that it was the time that he would act as moderator of the Forum and he had proposed some changes on how the session will be conducted in future conferences. For his last Asian Leadership Forum, Prof. Nakamura summed up the common thread that binds the four speakers into three concepts: government reform, IT development, and innovations. The ALF featured the following speakers: Deputy Minister for Government Innovation and Organization Iljae Kim (Korea), Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Regional Hub of the Civil Service Alikhan Baimenov (Kazakhstan), Ministry of Civil Service Secretary of State Youk Bunna (Cambodia), and Professor Emeritus Akihide Hirashima (Japan).
Dr. Iljae Kim of the Ministry of Interior and Safety shared Korea’s story of developing e-government over the years. According to him, innovations did not only improved the government, but also had goals to improve the quality of life of the citizens and envisioned an enhanced competitiveness for businesses. Through relevant legislation and establishment of the necessary infrastructure, e-Government in Korea underwent many rapid changes from 1967. Being a world-renowned e-government hub, Korea created a number of systems that aim to make governments service-oriented, capable and transparent. Dr. Kim cited examples of systems providing information and helping perform transactions with the citizens, where there is no need for on-site visits – from information dissemination, financial transactions, public welfare and safety, among others.
Given these developments, Korea can still improve through some means, as suggested by Dr. Kim. Among these are the establishment of the e-government roadmap, system reforms for new work processes, investment on e-gov infrastructure, reduction of more manual work processes, and mitigation of adverse effects such as cyber threats and to bridge the digital divide.
Chairman Alikhan Baimenov started his presentation by stressing that public governance is very crucial in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. He added that technological innovation brought challenges and opportunities in the global order and government systems. Because of these experiences civil service reforms are now being addressed as part of government agenda.
In his speech, he noted several key directions of administrative reforms. He also shared exemplary cases of civil service reforms in South Asia. These are Kazakhstan’s Senior Executive Service managerial continuity; Georgia’s anti-corruption reform through assets declaration and whistleblower protection for public employees; and Kyrgyzstan’s key performance indicators-based performance appraisal system as a tool for monitoring civil servants’ activities.
Moreover, he also cited innovations in public service delivery by sharing the experiences of Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. In addition he also shared his ideas on what factors should be considered for the continuous engagement in civil service reforms. Chairman Baimenov also took the opportunity to introduce their organizational work, member countries and institutional partners. He also encouraged EROPA to join them in their undertakings. Lastly, he ended his presentation by stating that the Sustainable Development Goals is perceived as the hope in the world that governments should always put the interest of the people above all of its initiatives.
Secretary of State Youk Bunna focused his speech on the financial type of administrative reform they experienced in Cambodia. He shared that before the reform, Cambodia encountered a number of financial challenges in terms of salary adequacy, lack of control on payments for contractuals, lack of institutions to coordinate salary issues, and lack of implementation in terms of salary taxation. With this, they implemented a comprehensive administrative reform program, which includes compensation reform. To address the issues, they created committees and coordinated with relevant public institutions, together with regular reporting and monitoring systems. Benchmarking was also done to guide their actions. They included their strategies as well in the budget framework, together with the application of IT. As a result, hundreds of thousands of civil servants were able to reap the rewards of better salary and compensation – getting their salaries on time, reduction of gaps between minimum and maximum salaries and provision of pension to the retired civil servants. This is also due to the transformation made through better tax collection through an IT system, and as Mr. Bunna said, the creation of the culture of tax payment. Lastly, he said that it is also important to mobilize people to go along the reform, especially those who are resistant to change.
Prof. Akihide Hirashima of Rikkyo University, a high ranking official of Yamanashi Prefecture, shared an insider perspective of how the prefecture’s Ventforet Kofu Football Club remarkably recovered from a bankruptcy crisis.
At the height of the crisis in 2000, VFK incurred a total loss of about Y450 million (USD4.09 million), with the team landing at the bottom of the J2 League. To avert bankruptcy, the Yamanashi government announced the crisis the football club was facing, which prompted supporters to launch a petition through online forums, gathering around 300,000 signatures and Y10 million-worth of donations. Because of the petition, a memorandum was reached among the stakeholders of the football club. A new manage team was also created which enacted reforms to improve the football club’s financial standing within the year. As a result, the VFK met all its target, even doubling its revenue and increasing attendance during games.
More than a decade after the crisis, Ventforet was able to break into the J1 League, the highest tier in Japan’s football league.