Bureaucratic inaction

Other Names:
Bureaucrat inertia
Minimalistic bureaucratic response
Official inaction in remedial response to problems
Bureaucratic procrastination to potential hazards

Bureaucracies, or units within a bureaucracy, may use every possible tactic to avoid action, innovation, taking a position, taking responsibility or doing other than the absolute minimum consistent with fulfilling the letter of their mandate. Even assuming initial competence in bureaucracies, inaction in everything except paperwork leads to atrophy of the special knowledge and decision-making capabilities vital for governmental and intergovernmental intervention in the development process. Bureaucratic passivity may also lead to recruitment, retention and promotion of those who lack competence in energy and dedication, if not in knowledge, solely to ensure that a low level of practical contributions is maintained.


Recent statements have indicated problems in the USA (where bureaucratic inertia has been blamed for ineffectiveness in fighting terrorism), in the USSR (where preference for the status quo among cadres has led to a rejection of their economic plans for 1986-90); and in Egypt (where attempts at economic and industrial expansion are said to be thwarted by bureaucratic red-tape).

Narrower Problems:
Unresponsive public authorities
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
C: Cross-sectoral problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST