Comparative public management reform: Cases of policy transfer in Thailand and Malaysia

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


Patricia Ingraham


Public management, Reform, Policy transfer, Thailand, Malaysia

Subject Categories

Public Administration | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This is an exploratory, qualitative study of the transfer of public management reform policies and performance-based budgeting from abroad into Thailand and Malaysia. The three sources for data are: in-depth interviews with elite officials; document research; and participant observation in the agencies leading reform in the two countries.

Findings from the cases lead to a better understanding of why and how public management reforms are transferred around the world. First, this study found that domestic bureaucratic politics is an important factor that has pushed central agencies to make decisions to transfer management policies and tools from abroad. Second, once central agencies seek to transfer policies, the process is rather simple. The two cases show that the processes of transfer occur through various types of agents of transfer. Some of them literally fly into the country to give quick advice or write reports for governments. Some are searched for through 'google.com' or upon personal recommendations. These individuals are not deeply associated with any international organization, they do not represent an institute, and they usually work as individuals. This supports the claim that by focusing on individual-level analysis, we are better able to explain how public management reform policies and tools are transferred around the world. Third, the two cases show that studies of public management reforms must incorporate historical approaches in order to understand the processes at work.

In addition to supporting the three claims, this study aims to compare the experiences of policy transfer in the two countries in order to reveal lessons that can be learned which would enhance learning cycles of efforts on reform. It demonstrates the fine line between learning a policy and copying one---something practitioners must be aware of in order to carry out successful reforms.


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