Belfast Telegraph

Minister gets international advice over public sector

The Finance Minister is to ask one of the world's most influential think-tanks to benchmark the Northern Ireland public sector against the rest of the world.

Simon Hamilton is to meet with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) next week and wants to explore how he can get the organisation to find out how the public sector is performing.

"I want to draw on their expertise in public expenditure, procurement, e-government and other areas of public sector innovation and not just discover what international best practice is but begin to benchmark Northern Ireland against the best and learn how we can get better," Mr Hamilton said in a speech to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust last night.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the minister said he wants to "internationalise Northern Ireland".

"There are some things we are really good and some things we need to improve on," he said.

"Essentially all governments face the same problems with less money to spend combined with growing demand.

"But we haven't benchmarked ourselves before and it's time we did."

He said he wanted to make the Northern Ireland public sector the best in the world but to do that he needed to "know how to get there".

Mr Hamilton's meeting with the OECD follows his declaration since taking up the post of finance minister that he will reform the public sector.

The task ahead of him now will be to persuade the OECD, whose mission statement is "to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world", to carry out a thorough investigation of the Northern Ireland public sector.

That shouldn't be overly difficult given one of the organisation's main areas of focus currently is "to restore confidence in markets and the institutions and companies that make them function.

"That will require improved regulation and more effective governance at all levels of political and business life."

Business organisations and economist shave already highlighted the relatively large public sector in Northern Ireland compared to the private sector.

Rather than attempt to shrink the public sector, Mr Hamilton has said he wants to try to grow the private sector by making the public sector more efficient.

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