Public Policy Formulation-3: Features of a Good Public Policy

Shahid H. Raja
4 min readOct 9, 2021

Abstract

This is an abridged version of Chapter 5 of my book “Public Policy Formulation and Analysis: A Handbook”. This handbook examines 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 a typical developing country like Pakistan.

Introduction:

Public policy is an official document outlining actions for problem-solving and following rules and regulations within constitutional constraints and socio-political norms.

Policy Analysis:

  • Policy analysis is carried out for academic interest, impact assessment, and learning lessons for future guidance of the state and policymakers.
  • It involves analyzing the context, design, and impact of policies to assess their effectiveness or otherwise in achieving the objectives.

Reasons for Differences in Public Policies:

  • Differences in policy formulation and implementation depend on the form of state, form of government, stage of development, quality of actors, and capacity of the bureaucracy.

Checklist for Good Public Policy Document:

  • A good policy document should be comprehensive, internally and externally consistent, legally and constitutionally valid, technologically feasible, and financially viable.
  • It should also consider economic benefits, social acceptance, stakeholders’ consensus, transparency, equity, political commitment, and environmental compliance.

Comprehensive:

  • An effective policy is comprehensive, indicating the areas covered, groups affected, date of application, and repeal of previous policies.
  • It should be accountable, allow for effective evaluation, and stick to the main issues and terms of reference.

Internal Consistency:

  • A policy document should ensure no contradictions, harmonize with facts and figures, draw correct inferences from the evidence, and lay down institutional mechanisms for successful implementation.

Consultants’ Role:

  • Junior officers should be well-versed in examining policy drafts, providing inputs, and ensuring consultants adhere to terms of reference and cover necessary issues.
  • Beware of verbosity and seek clarification on unclear terms. A policy is constantly remade throughout the policy cycle.

Example:

  • For a food security policy, recommendations should address the financial difficulties of people and propose a social safety net, rather than focusing solely on building food godowns.

External Consistency:

  • Policies must be in sync with the overall aims and objectives of the state and should not conflict with other policies of the state.
  • Draft policy formulators should review other existing policies that affect or will be affected by the proposed policy and address any inconsistencies.

Legal/Constitutional Validity:

  • Any proposal made in a policy document against the law of the land is void.
  • The opinion of the Ministry of Law on all policy documents is mandatory.

Technical Feasibility:

  • Policies proposing actions or projects must be feasible within the limits of current technology, available within given resource constraints, and sufficient for the new system.
  • Policies must consider the operational feasibility of a system, including the level of technology necessary for the new system.

Resources Availability:

  • Policy formulators should thoroughly examine proposals from multiple angles, such as technical feasibility, financial viability, and other criteria.
  • Policies must be not only affordable over their lifetime but also represent good long-term value for money.

Financial Viability:

  • Ideally, all projects proposed in a policy document should be self-financed, which is a guarantee for their long-term sustainability.
  • The imposition of user charges can create ownership among stakeholders and ensure greater accountability.

Economic Benefits:

  • Efforts must be made to ensure that if a proposed project is not financially viable, it must be economically beneficial to the majority of the public, both directly and indirectly.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of a new project using the cost-benefit ratio.

Social Acceptance:

  • Policies must be in harmony with the social norms and values of a society, or if change is needed, it should be formulated for that purpose.
  • Policies should be formulated to change social norms in certain cases such as child marriage and bonded labour.

SMART Goals and Benchmarks:

  • A good public policy must have adequately defined and properly framed SMART goals with definite benchmarks.
  • Clear goals and benchmarks make it easy to monitor and evaluate the policy.

Environmental and Compliance Integration:

  • Environmental concerns and compliance activities are increasingly being integrated and aligned to avoid conflicts and wasteful overlaps.
  • Adaptation measures have been suggested to tackle these issues.

Importance of Good Public Policy:

  • Good public policy is essential for effectively solving public problems and supporting governmental institutions.
  • Active citizenship and the legitimacy of the government are encouraged by good policies.

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You may like to read also

  1. Public Policy Formulation-1: Definition, Types, & Components

2. Public Policy Formulation-2: Process & Challenges

3. Public Policy Formulation-4: Case Study-Policy Formulation in Pakistan

From the ebook “ Public Policy Formulation and Analysis: A Handbook” by Shahid Hussain Raja, published by Amazon:

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