Culture-bound public administration : the value basis of public administration in Tonga

Fusimalohi, Taniela L. (2005). Culture-bound public administration : the value basis of public administration in Tonga PhD Thesis, School of Business, The University of Queensland.

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Author Fusimalohi, Taniela L.
Thesis Title Culture-bound public administration : the value basis of public administration in Tonga
School, Centre or Institute School of Business
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2005
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr D. J. Gow
Dr P. Renfrow
Mr V. Takau
Total pages 492
Collection year 2006
Language eng
Subjects L
360202 Public Administration
750605 Public services management
Formatted abstract
This thesis is an intellectual journey over the broad terrains of Public Administration in Tonga and to examine how she has progressed over the last century in terms of economic development and how administrative development has evolved in the last six decades. It tells of how Western contact and influence and multilateral financial institutions both have shaped the way public policy is administered in Tonga. Aid assistance by Western countries and conditional loans from multilateral financial institutions have been the vehicles for the importation of Western models of Public Administration to Tonga since the 1960s and 1970s.

These were decades of optimism. Overseas aid assistance kept increasing and with it came the Western social and hardware technologies considered important for economic development. Administrative development was a part of this whole thrust of technology transfer from the Western aid donor countries. On the one hand, Western public administration models had become the benchmark for transforming the administrative machinery in Tonga in the last two decades or so. On the other hand, a traditional Tongan public administration had already existed in the decades before the 1960s and 1970s. Retired senior public servants that were interviewed during the fieldwork described the values and principles that were important in this traditional model. The transfer of administrative ideas and methods based on Western models of public administration to Tonga resulted in the co-existence and eventual integration of traditional Tongan public administration and Western-based public administration to form the basis of a 'hybrid' public administration in Tonga.

This thesis examines the values that have become the basis of administrative development in Tonga in the form of public sector reform. Public administration is infused with values and therefore it becomes the mode for transporting values from one locality to another. Hence, Western public administration that was imported to Tonga also brought Western values.

The purpose of writing this thesis is to elaborate on values - the enduring beliefs that act as guiding principles in behaviour and action - and their influence on public administration in Tonga and hence addressing the following goals:

Goal 1: to examine the structure and content of the value system of the Tongan Public Service in order to define the 'value maps' that constitute the value basis of public administration in Tonga;

Goal 2: to define the 'traditional form' of Tongan public administration and to examine whether it co-existed and eventually integrated with the Western public administration imposed by Western-type reforms; and

Goal 3: to examine whether the Western values conveyed by Western-type reforms fuse with Tongan values underlying the traditional Tongan public administration to form a 'hybrid' public administration in Tonga.

There was a traditional Tongan public administration that was guided by principles and values emanating from the Tongan culture. The continuous efforts for administrative development in the last four decades by Western aid donors and multilateral financial institutions had resulted in the co-existence of this traditional Tongan public administration and Western public administration that was guided by values of the Western culture. The co-existence of the traditional Tongan public administration and the Western public administration now eventually integrated to form a 'hybrid' public administration in Tonga which is based on a fusion of the values that are the basis of both systems. The 'hybrid' public administration provides a practical explanation of the impact of the transfer of Western administrative technology into the public administration system in Tonga.

The internationalisation of Western public administration and its spread to less developed countries does not guarantee the development of universal sets of values and norms in public administration. Public administration is culture-bound in that it is an institution that transmits and implements the important values of society. It is determined and continuously influenced by values that are bounded by the culture predominant in that locality. Therefore, the 'ecology' or the context of public administration must be taken into account in the analysis because it is a sub-system of the larger system of society.

The research takes a multi-disciplinary emic approach in addressing the goals of the research. It borrows concepts from psychology and anthropology and adds them to the existing theoretical framework for public administration, which is based on management and economics. An emic approach is taken by designing original survey instruments based on the knowledge of the locality by the author, who is Tongan. The approach taken here is expected to contribute to the enlightening of the understanding of public administration in Tonga and in undertaking public sector reform.

Keyword Public administration -- Tonga.
Public administration -- Moral and ethical aspects -- Tonga.
Civil service reform -- Tonga.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: UQ Theses (RHD) - UQ staff and students only
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Created: Fri, 24 Aug 2007, 18:51:00 EST