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Public Policy And An Analysis Of Policy Making Process

  • Everyone has a way he/she does his/her things and this speaks a lot about the person concerned. Pattern of man's activities makes him expectant and as well predictable by others. In other words, activity begets pattern, pattern begets expectation and expectation begets prediction.This is also applicable to groups and organisations.

  • Every group, be it public or private, endeavours to create a pattern, understood and acceptable to its components, with a view to ensuring that a pattern is established and results predictable.
  • Individuals and organisations don't just make up patterns; it is a result of a process which must have been subjected to a thorough test and analysis to ensure confidence and commitment.The process is expected to be efficient as it naturally influences the potency of the pattern finally adopted.
  • In any modern society, the government at every level, establishes a pattern for every course of action through policies. This, ordinarily, is done in the best interest of the society and with a view to making the best use of the available resources.
  • The objective of this article is to share knowledge in the area of public policy process in order to provoke the interest of all on how Government business is carried out. It will also reaffirm the significance of every member of the society in the policy process at relevant levels and the need to get more involved.

What is Public Policy?

  • Public Policy is a definite course or method of action selected by government institutions among alternatives to achieve a given objective
  • It is usually in the form of laws, regulations, actions and priorities concerning a given issue.
  • They are the basic principles by which a government is guided.
  • Public Policy Process refers to the steps involved in the determination and choice of a definite course or method of action by a government institution to achieve a given objective.
  • Public policy process is a dynamic, continuous, complex, and interactive system through which public problems are identified and countered by creating new approaches or by reforming existing approaches (policy).
  • Public policy is more of how the Government decides to handle a matter. Public policy environment has both governmental and non-governmental actors.

What are the characteristics of a Good Policy?

  • Policies must be communicated to and understood by all who are affected by them; they should be stable and consistent.
  • Policies must be also consistent within the totality of the entire system, values and goals, sincere and realistic.
  • Policies should consider the future and be outcome-oriented

What is the Policy Making Process?

  • A policy established and carried out by the government goes through several stages from inception to conclusion.
  • These stages sometimes overlap each other and there may be additional mini-stages.
  • It is a process that never really ends.
  • These are agenda building, formulation, adoption, implementation, evaluation.

Agenda Setting/Identification of Issues or Problems

  • Before any policy comes into place, a problem must exist which will attract the attention of the government. Such problems must be defined and considered serious enough for government action.
  • A public problem is a condition or situation that produces needs or dissatisfaction among people and for which relief or redress by governmental action is sought.
  • There must be a prevailing dissatisfaction with the status quo.
  • Policy formulation and adoption are not automatic; the issue/problem must first compete for space on the policy agenda.
  • It usually scales several hurdles inherent in the policy environment.

Criteria for Identifying public problems

  • Does the problem affect a larger segment of the society?
  • Do the affected people consider the condition as a problem?
  • Does the problem indirectly or remotely impact on others?
  • Can an individual action bring relief?
  • Will Government intervention be effective?
  • Will the public accept the Government's intervention?
  • Is the problem tainted with civil disobedience?

Policy Formulation

  • Policy formulation is the development of effective and acceptable courses of action for addressing issues already on the policy agenda.
  • Effective - the policy proposed must be regarded as a valid, efficient, and an implementable solution to the issues at hand.
  • Acceptable - the proposed course of action must be authorized by the legitimate decision makers (politically feasible).

Policy formulators need to consider the following:

  • Whether the proposal is technically sound
  • Whether it is directed at the problem's causes
  • How the intervention sought will solve or lessen the problem (outcomes)
  • Whether it's budgetary costs is reasonable or acceptable
  • Whether the proposal is politically acceptable

Policy Adoption:

  • Policy options are considered through comprehensive scanning, incremental and mixed scanning to arrive at the most viable alternative out of the proposed options to address the identified problem or challenge.
  • Factors influencing public policy choice / adoption include the following: Preference of the society, Party Affiliations (party loyalty, manifesto, agenda, strength), Constituency Interest, Natural Factors, Public Opinion (public perception of policy issues), Reverence, Decisions Rules, Public Interest (number of people to be affected).
  • Final decision reached may have adopted any of the following decision making styles: Bargaining (negotiation with peers to harmonize goals); Persuasion (winning others with facts and skills); Command (superior decisions binding on subordinates); Majority building (bargaining for numerical strength); Presidential Decision Making (actions taken for and on behalf of the country with appropriate approvals).

Policy Implementation

  • Policy implementation is defined as 'what happens after a policy is adopted. Basically it refers to all that needs to be done to carry out what the Government has decided to do.
  • Implementation constitutes the action part of the adopted policy and is critical to policy outcomes. Actors in the implementation process include: Administrative Agencies; Legislative Oversight; Judiciary through enforcement of relevant laws on non-compliance; Pressure Groups through lobbying of Administrative Agencies; Community Organizations - Directly affected people.
  • It is worthy of note that policy implementation is shrouded in uncertainty because policies sometimes do fail.
  • This may be due to the following:Political forces that disrupt implementation, process; Lack of Resources; Communication challenges between policy makers and policy implementers; Organizational misfits.

Policy Evaluation

  • Policy evaluation is a systematic process for assessing the design, implementation and outcomes of public policies. It is the final stage of the policy process.
  • It includes appraisal of policy's content, implementation, goal attainment and other effects by official and private evaluators. It can occur at any time in the policy process, it looks backwards and forward as the case may be.
  • Usually, policy impacts (policy output and policy outcomes) are evaluated.
  • Challenges of policy evaluation include: Uncertainty over policy goals; Difficulty in determining causality; Diffuse policy impact, - it is difficult to evaluate unintended impacts; Difficulties in data acquisition; Time constraint; Lack of influence.

Conclusion:
  • Public policies are the decisions of the Government on any problem or issue and usually complex as issues may not make it to the agenda.
  • Understanding of the process will enrich the citizenry and should provoke active participation.
  • Every stage of the process is important and policies may succeed or fail.
  • The good news is that with better understanding of the public policy process we can influence the process positively, and perhaps differentiate between whether the Government is slow or the process is complex.

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