Trust in Government


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered at the 32nd Session of the OECD Network of Senior Officials from Centres of Government

Santiago, Chile, 24 October de 2013

Dear President Piñera, Minister Larroulet, Ambassador Briones, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a great pleasure to be here to open this 32nd Annual Meeting of Senior Officials from Centres of Government (CoG). I am delighted to be back in Chile, one of our newest OECD members, and I would like to thank our hosts, President Piñera and Minister Larroulet, for welcoming this year’s meeting at La Moneda, in the heart of Santiago.

The CoG meeting, one of our highest-level policy networks, is always a highlight on the OECD’s calendar. As direct advisers to government leaders and ministers, your work is crucial to the well-functioning of national governments and therefore to the trust of our people in the future.

Today is a unique opportunity to channel your leadership and insight on how to make centres of national government work more effectively; to achieve a greater understanding of decision and policymaking systems; or how to address governance issues that are fundamental to economic and social policy objectives.

Let me start by putting your discussions in today’s global economic context.

Cautious Optimism

First, the good news. The world’s economy is showing some encouraging signs. The euro area ended its run of six consecutive quarters of contraction, though certain countries are still in recession. The US and Japanese economies are showing more robust growth than we have seen for some time. Our most recent Interim Economic Assessment predicts continued improvement in OECD countries in the second half of the year.

However, this does not mean that a sustainable recovery is on firm footing. Significant risks remain and extraordinary monetary policies and concerted structural reforms will still be necessary to ensure that momentum is maintained through 2014. With the exception of China, many emerging economies grew more slowly than expected, and this continues to dampen overall global performance.

Unfortunately, the social legacy of the crisis continues to scar the lives of citizens. Unemployment remains stubbornly high in many countries; across the OECD it is 7.9% on average among the OECD countries. In July 2013, there were 47.9 million people unemployed in the OECD area (0.4 million less than in June, but still 13.2 million more than in July 2008). At the same time, income inequality continues to rise. In the first three years of the crisis, 2008, 2009, and 2010, the inequality in income from work and capital increased as much as in the previous twelve years.

Logically, public trust in public institutions has plummeted to record low levels. According to the Gallup World Poll in 2012, only 40% of the OECD population trust their government (down from 45% in 2007). This weakens the legitimacy of the State and the health of our democracies. It also hinders the government’s ability to implement policies effectively. And most importantly, it drastically undermines all of our significant efforts to revive the global economy and place the engines of growth back on track.

The problem is that there is no simple solution to rebuilding trust in government. How can we tackle this complex challenge?


A Strategy on Trust

At the OECD, we believe that we need a strategy on rebuilding trust, just as we have for reviving growth, rebuilding jobs or improving investment. This is crucial for the legitimacy, efficacy and strength of our governments, and it is therefore crucial for you. A Strategy on Trust, has, in my view, three important components: integrity, transparency and engagement.

First, integrity is key to restoring trust. Too many citizens believe that corruption in government is widespread. At the OECD, we help countries to strengthen trust in the policy making process by developing good practice principles in high-risk areas and monitoring their implementation.

These include for instance, public procurement, which accounts for 13% of GDP on average in OECD countries. It also includes lobbying: spending on this more than doubled over the past 15 years, increasing from USD 1.44 billion to USD 3.30 billion.

A second component is transparency. Citizens want to know how their money is being spent. Governments must be accountable, and this means publishing and communicating easily digestible budget data. Transparency in the tax system is also critical to building trust in policies. Our societies want to feel that everyone is paying a “fair share” of the tax bill. This is why communication campaigns to showcase our government improvements in transparency are becoming cornerstones for good governance strategies.

Finally, the third pillar is engagement. We need to get serious about Open Government as an interactive process that promotes inclusive and responsive policy making through real engagement with citizens.

Trust is not only about tackling corruption and putting government data on websites, it is also about giving citizens a voice in the process. As senior officials operating at the heart of government, you play a crucial leadership role in strengthening the voice of citizens, and in increasing transparency, and tackling corruption.

The Role of Centres of Government

Centres of government are crucial to rebuild trust. Our survey of Centres of Government shows that, despite diverse political systems and histories, all our governments depend on their Centre of Government to manage increasingly complex policy challenges. Indeed, heads of government and ministers depend on your direct support and advice, which is why it is striking that in most countries, the centre is very small – representing a tiny 0.0014% of government spending. Yet, where would our governments be without a strong centre? Strategic thinking and foresight, coherent action and monitoring of implementation would all be impossible.

Of course, the Centre of Government has to be fit for purpose. The Public Governance Reviews that we have conducted in our Member Countries have indicated that there is scope for making the Centre more responsive, more efficient and better equipped.

In November, we will release our Government at a Glance publication, which includes around 50 indicators to help decision makers and the public analyse and benchmark government performance. This will help to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the public sector, as well as enable governments to address issues such as integrity, foresight, risk, and citizen engagement.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the global economy regains its strength, rebuilding trust in government has never been more important. Without confidence in governments, in public institutions, and in well-functioning markets, public support for ambitious, innovative policies that are crucial to the recovery is difficult to mobilise. A lack of trust seriously derails our recovery efforts as it can lead to lowers rates of regulatory compliance and delay investment, innovation and business decisions. An investment in trust is an investment in long-term economic recovery and in social well-being.

You, as leaders at the front and centre of government, play a crucial role in restoring the public’s faith and confidence. Let’s use the expertise of the CoG network to share experiences on strengthening central institutions, on increasing integrity, transparency and engagement, and on other emerging and challenging issues. I wish you very fruitful discussions over the next 2 days. Thank you very much.




Countries list

  • Afghanistan
  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • Andorra
  • Angola
  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Aruba
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahamas
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Belize
  • Benin
  • Bermuda
  • Bhutan
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Bulgaria
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Canada
  • Cape Verde
  • Cayman Islands
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Chile
  • China (People’s Republic of)
  • Chinese Taipei
  • Colombia
  • Comoros
  • Congo
  • Cook Islands
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Denmark
  • Djibouti
  • Dominica
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  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Estonia
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  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Niue
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  • Palau
  • Palestinian Administered Areas
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  • Paraguay
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  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Russian Federation
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  • Saint Helena
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  • Saint Lucia
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  • Seychelles
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  • Tanzania
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  • Timor-Leste
  • Togo
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  • Uganda
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