Public Policy Formulation and Analysis-1

Introduction

World Bank defines the governance as the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is executed, including the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced. Quality of governance in a country is judged by its capacity to effectively formulate and implement sound socioeconomic policies. Although policy formulation is the exclusive domain of the elected representatives of the county, faithful implementation of a policy duly approved by a competent authority is the foremost duty of a civil servant. His or her performance will be invariably judged by the way he implements the policy for effective service delivery and consumer satisfaction. In the contemporary world, the need for effective, informed and neutral policy makers and public servants is ever increasing as the issues pertaining to government are becoming more complex in nature.
Public policy studies have been receiving a lot of attention during the last few years in the academic circles of Pakistan and quite a few institutes of public policy and governance has been established in the public and private universities in the country. Besides the increasing awareness about the role and importance of public policy formulation and implementation in tackling the myriad contemporary challenges of Pakistan, the main reason for this interest in public policy issues have been the demand of the civil society and sections of the public for access to structured knowledge about the state of governance in the country to enable them to make informed judgments and appropriate decisions.
This article explains the way policies are formulated, implemented and monitored, the steps involved and the activities to be performed in the various steps? It also lists the criteria to judge the efficacy of a policy and ends with the major weaknesses of policy formulation in Pakistan.
What is a Policy?
Policy is a formal documented statement of intentions and sets of actions of an organization/authority to either remove certain deficiencies or improve the conditions in any particular area of concern/interest. Thomas Dye defines it as “Whatever governments choose to do or not to do” (1987) while according to Anderson it is a “Purposive course of action or inaction undertaken by an actor or a set of actors in dealing with a problem or matter of concern” (1994) .Generally a policy is prepared to address a specific problem such as

  • Reducing the shortage of affordable housing facilities in an area
  • Preservation of heritage while improving an existing city or town
  • Improving the environmental conditions of a locality
  • Providing age related facilities in an area

Features of policy

  • Policy formulation and implementation is not a random act of an organization, rather it is a deliberate action taken by a competent authority which initiated the action and is approved by the public representatives, usually the minister in charge of a ministry or the cabinet.
  • Although it is not a piece of legislation approved by the parliament in the form of an act of parliament, it has the sanctity of its own and can be used as a reference for dispute resolution in the court of law. In some cases the policy itself or parts of the document, which is in essence a value judgment of the regime in power, could be converted into an act of parliament.
  • As it is the prerogative of the state to formulate a policy it is implemented by the state apparatus which formulates strategies to implement it. Consequently policy is distinct from the strategy in the sense that while the policy is fairly general in nature indicating what is to be done and why, the strategy outlines the exact measures to be taken for realizing the goals and objectives set out by the policy.
  • A policy could either be a part of an overall development policy and strategy of the country i.e. Growth Strategy for Pakistan prepared by the Planning Commission or it could be a specific document addressing a particular issue i.e. Food Security Policy, Poverty Reduction Strategy, National Housing Policy, Climate Change Policy etc.

Sources of Policy Formulation
Need for formulating a new policy or replacing/amending an existing one can arise out of any one or more of the following reasons;

  • Societal structural changes-demographic transition, economic transformation, social reengineering, globalization etc may necessitate policy formulation
  • Regime change– new political elite may have new vision, mission and agenda for which new policies are needed
  • Donors/world institutions-their aid may  be contingent upon certain policy changes, structural reforms
  • Global commitments-state enters into international conventions which normally need local policy formulation
  • Pressure groups-industrial ,agricultural lobbies, social causes advocacy groups can force state for this
  • Court Orders-Superior courts sometimes pass orders for formulating clear policies or review an existing policy while hearing any case

Process of Policy Formulation and Implementation
Policy formulation and implementation process comprises four interlinked stages;

  1. Initiation of Policy Process

There are a variety of reasons for governments to take the initiative for developing a policy e.g.:

  • Awareness of a precarious internal security situation.
  • Pressure on the government to provide cheap housing
  • Needs to change the employment  conditions
  • Pursuit of food security objectives national agenda

Once is has been decided to formulate a policy to address a problem, an in-house or multisectoral task force is constituted to diagnose the situation, formulate a draft policy document and submit it to the relevant authority for its validation.

  1. Draft Policy Formulation and Validation

Policy formulation is an iterative process, comprising various sub-steps and involving all relevant stakeholders to ensure that the policy is realistic, feasible, widely accepted and supported, and that can be effectively implemented. There are two options for preparing a policy document each having advantages and disadvantages:

  • Integration of policy concerns into overall and sectoral policies. While this approach has the advantage that it ensures integration of policy concerns in other relevant sector policies, the flip side is the risk of conceptual ambiguities and inconsistencies in the pursuance of objectives in the different sectors.
  • Preparation of a sector-specific policy document, which has the advantage of providing a consistent framework of objectives and policy measures. However there is a danger that the different sector ministries feel less committed to make their contribution to policy formulation and implementation.

Whichever option is chosen, there are normally four phases in draft policy formulation and its validation process 

  • PHASE- 1

A task force composed of representatives of key stakeholders is established for draft policy formulation. It may form sub-teams consisting of representatives of the concerned ministries to deal with specific issues

  • PHASE -2

During this phase, a first round of policy formulation workshops should be conducted at central and decentralized levels to diagnose the situation by collecting and analyzing relevant data and information, reviewing existing policies, stocktaking of existing initiatives and consulting relevant governmental and non- governmental organizations

  • PHASE-3

In this phase the task force will produce a first draft of the policy document(s). The document needs to set out the objectives to be achieved, and to address all relevant issues related to where action is required. 

  • PHASE- 4

On the basis of the feedback on the first draft, the task force will prepare a revised second draft policy document, setting-out the objectives, priorities, and an outline of the policy measures to be taken to achieve the objectives. This second draft will be presented to the head of the Ministry/department who will have to endorse the policy.
Once validated, the concerned ministry or department gets its approval from the competent authority usually the minister or in case of multisectoral policy, the cabinet. If it affects the provinces, then the approval of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) is mandatory.

  1. Policy Implementation

On the basis of the measures and priorities defined in the document, a Strategic Plan of Action for implementing the policy measures will have to be formulated. There can be three types of policy measures:

  1. Regulatory type wherein a set of rules, regulations and procedures are recommended for the public authorities and applied in policy implementation.
  1. Programme type wherein the recommended policy measures are implemented through launching of specific programmes/ projects.
  1. Combination of the regulatory and programme types of policy measures. This type of combined measures is needed in the following cases:

Needless to reiterate, implementing the policy approved by the competent authority is role of the civil servants who are responsible for its effective and efficient execution

  1. Policy Monitoring and Evaluation

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is an essential element of policy formulation and implementation cycle to ensure that the policy is effective in achieving the objective and take mid-term corrections where needed by providing the government and other stakeholders with up-to-date information on the state of implementation of the policy and assessing whether the implementation of the policy is on track towards attaining the planned objectives.
While a central M & E unit is responsible for the compilation and analysis of the M & E results of all related interventions, different stakeholders should perform M & E at all levels of policy implementation and monitoring activities by different organizations need to be harmonized. At certain time intervals, comprehensive evaluations of the progress in implementation and achievements of the policy will need to be conducted

 

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