Size doesn’t matter

Brandenburg, a German state surrounding the countries capital Berlin, scrapped its planned local government reform last week.

In an attempt to modernize the state’s local administration the planned reform centered on a commonly cited but outdated receipt: downsizing of staff size through merger of administrative units. Economies of scale is the economic rational behind this unidimensional approach.

Empirically there is little evidence that size links to administrative performance.

While larger organizations tend to be more innovative than very small entities (it is easier to let 4 or 5 people develop and test some novel practices if you have 400 more for the regular stuff), there is no compelling proof that they perform better.

First, performance has multiple dimensions, cost-efficiency being just one among them. So the back-then state government was seemingly poorly advised when it came up with its reform proposal several years ago.

Second, even if there is a, say, u-shape relationship between size and cost-efficiency, both researchers and practitioners do not know what a sufficient size it.

Size does not matter for well-being of community members! But access to high-speed internet connection and a sound public transport infrastructure do.

The scrapping came as a last minute withdrawal. The reform was long-awaited but also highly contested, though for political reasons rather than for public management reasoning.

Some additional 400 millions will be available over Brandenburgs next two-budget cycle due. This is the main explanation why the incumbent coalition now scrapped a reform that she had been advocating for several years. There is simply no budget pressure to facilitate any substanial efforts to make public management modern.

Reputational scratches is all whats remain from this episode.

Pictured above: Sanssouci, without concerns; royal palace of former Prussian king Frederick the Great, located in Potsdam, Brandenburg’s capital


Welcome to the new New Square

After some felt three years of stop-amd-go renovation the New Square (новая площадь) in Moscows city center shows up with his new fresh face (pictured below). Plenty of new space for pedestrians, including bench to take a rest and a look on another pending renovation side: the technical museum, which is located in the middle of new square. Moscow changes his face a little day by day. And to the better, the good news goes.


Vergangenheitskultur and 100 years of October Revolution

Two prime time serials on Russias Channel One are indicative of the countries official Vergangenheitskultur regarding the October revolution which happened exactly 100 years ago.

Perception of the back then Red Russian revolution is ambivalent in contemporary Moscow. On the one hand some selected protagonists, such as of course Lenin,  are omnipresent: Leninskiy avenue, Lenin library, Lenin Subway, Lenin statues (such as the big one on Kalushska Square, pictured below). But these are mostly leftovers from Soviet times.

On the other hand in official narratives of Russian history the 1917 October revolution is depicted as starting point for unrest, disorder, famine, and plain chaos. 

For example, in a recent exhibition commerorating the 1917 Revolution, „Code of the Revolution“, I recognized no link drawn between 1917 and, say, post-war successes in space technology and ceconomic development.

The first serial depicted the life of Trotsky, a Russian revolutionary, who later flew to Mexico. The plot is that Trotsky himself tells his life from a retrospective perspective to an American journalist in his late exile. We see mainly episode from his pre-revolutionary exile in Switzerland and other European countries. Trotsky is depicted as tragic hero, while Lenin is less smart but more successful in terms of influence.

Guess who, Kalushska Square in Moscow, November 2017

The second film lenght serial depicted the life of Lenin until the point when he and his comrades re-entered Russia after the February revolution. We see his wife, we see the German generals how they agree to let Lenin travel via Germany to Russia in an attempt to end the war with Russia by destabilizing the country. The tragic hero in this serial is an unkown military sergeant who is trying to stop the train before he reached the Russian border.