Public Policy Formulation and Analysis – 2

A public servant should be not only well versed with the procedure for policy formulation, monitoring and evaluation but also be aware of the features of a effective policy. Accordingly you must weigh a policy document in the light of the following criteria;

  • Legal/Constitutional Validity
  • Internal Consistency
  • External Consistency
  • Technical Feasibility
  • Resources Availability
  • Financial Viability
  • Economic Benefits
  • Social Acceptance
  • Political Commitment
  • Environmental Compliance

Legal/Constitutional Validity
Any proposal made in a policy document against the law of the land is ab initio void. Constitution is a social contract between the state and the society and you, as the public servants and as government servants, are under oath to protect it. That’s why the opinion of the Ministry of Law on all policy documents is mandatory. Never skip it whatever may be the urgency
Internal Consistency
An effective policy is a comprehensive document covering all the relevant issues specifically indicating the areas it would cover,  the groups of people to be  affected, date of its application and the repeal of the previous policies totally or to the extent the new policy overrides them. Similarly depending on prevailing conditions, which needed to be remedied, appropriate policy measures are also explained in the documents. For example if the problem is to overcome the acute housing shortage in area, then policy documents should indicate the measures to be taken for overcoming this problem. i.e.

  • Relaxation of legal framework if it is considered to be too rigid.
  • Availability of technical and financial support to builders and developers
  • Provision of incentives to builders by promising the buying of unsold units at cost prices.
  • Facilitating the access of certain sections of society through easy availability of finance.

It should also ensure that no two or more parts of the proposed policy contradict one another. Its findings should be in harmony with the facts and figures given, correct inferences have been drawn from this evidence and in order to ensure the sustainability of the policy, the institutional mechanism and procedures for its successful implementation have been laid down.
Needless to reiterate an internally contradictory policy document or incomplete policy has remote chances of successful implementation or realization of intended objectives
 External Consistency
No policy is a stand-alone set of measures, rather a cross cutting set of measures. Consequently while preparing a policy, linkages and cross cutting nature of any policy must be addressed. It should not only be in sync with the overall aims and objectives of state but should try not to be in conflict with other policies of the state, promulgated to achieve its objectives. It must therefore review other existing policies that affect or will be affected by the proposed policy. In case of inconsistency, the draft policy formulators should revise its provisions as far as possible or should start consultation with the stakeholders for resolving the inconsistency.
Policy must also take into account contingency provisions for such events which are likely to affect its implementation. For example food security document must keep in mind the adverse effect of climate change, floods. Similarly the planning policy should cater for the possibility of earthquakes in an area prone to such calamity and provide for strict building code, including laying down guidelines and technical specifications.
Technical Feasibility
A policy which proposes actions/projects which are not feasible in the given set of technology/techniques is doomed to be a failure. Declaring first use of nuclear weapons as a cornerstone of your defence policy is feasible only if you have the capability to develop the atomic bombs and appropriate delivery systems.
Resources Availability
It is easy to include grandiose projects while announcing the development policy of a country but it will remain only a   pipe dream if you lack administrative wherewithal or adequate financial resources to carry out these projects.
Financial Viability
Ideally all the projects proposed in a policy should be self financing which is a guarantee for their sustainability. We should not be shy of imposing user charges because people are willing to pay if they get quality service. Of course provisions of exemptions could be made for poorer sections of society. Imposition of user charges not only creates ownership among the stakeholders but also ensures greater accountability because people paying the user charges will demand transparency
Economic Benefits
Of course not all projects could be self financing, particularly if they are meant for social welfare. However all out efforts be made to ensure that if a proposed project is not  financially viable, it  must be economically beneficial to majority of the public, directly as well as indirectly. Motorways are never financially viable but their socio –economic spinoffs justify their construction in terms of costs-benefits ratio
Social Acceptance
Normally a policy must be in harmony with the social norms and values of a society. Allowing gambling as a source of generating revenue is not a good policy measure. However, there are times when a policy must be formulated to change these very social norms such as child marriage, bonded labour etc. Needless to say a policy should not be discriminatory unless affirmative action is proposed-quota for rural areas is discriminatory in nature but is needed in a country with vast rural/urban divide
Stakeholders’ Consultation/Acceptance
Policy should be prepared in consultation with maximum number of stakeholders, institutions/stakeholders clearly identified and their respective roles stated. There must be an institutional set up for effective coordination among these stakeholders for the resolution of any dispute during implementation of the policy. IRSA is an excellent forum for effective monitoring of Water Accord. Some of the stakeholders are

  • Provincial, district and community administrations

They play an important role in policy formulation and implementation, by generating data and information about the issue in their administrative areas, being able to identify and articulate problems at local level and often being responsible for and directly involved in the implementation of policy measures in the field.

  • Nongovernmental Organisations

Local and international NGOs usually operate a wide spectrum of programmes and projects in a country. They make substantial contributions towards the achievement of national objectives particularly in advocacy and awareness creation on the international and national scene, mobilization and provision of material resources, technical assistance, training and capacity building and community mobilization.

  • Civil Society Organizations

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) like associations, cooperatives, chambers of commerce etc are important stakeholders who need to be actively involved in the process of policy formulation and implementation.

  • UN Agencies/Donors

Now days the successful implementation of any policy usually relies heavily on contributions by UN organizations and bilateral donors, particularly with regard to policy analysis and advice, drawing from experience in other countries, provision of financial and material resources and technical assistance.
Political Commitment
Developing intra-party as well as inter-party consensus for any proposed policy measure is basically the job of the minister in charge of the concerned ministry. However your inputs will be crucial in creating this consensus without which the chances of successful approval of the proposed policy are bleak.
Environmental Compliance
Environmental issues are now part and parcel of all policies. Although pushed by global entities, these considerations are beneficial for the country in the long run.

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