What is public policy?

Public policy

Generally when policy is discussed, it is assume to mean public policy which also means action taken for public interest. Public policy is an action designed to attain a specific goal. For policy to be relevant, it has to be preceded by problems or objectives an the policy should set out how it will contribute to the solution of the problem or the realization of the specific objectives. Public policy may be formulated at different levels of government. Ranging from the local , state , national to international levels. Under normal circumstances, public policy formulation is conditioned by statistical research an political consideration. Some examples of policy within a countries context which may also have foriegn counter part are monetary policy, industrial policy, agricultural policy, health policy, population policy, policy on science and technology etc.

Another categorization of policies is based on the number of people affected and their relationship with one another. Since public policy is the action of Government in the provision of public goods such as road , security,street light, defense, subsidies on essential commodities etc. The following three types of public policy are identify below;
  1. Distributive public policy
  2. Re-distributive public policy
  3. Regulatory public policy
It is necessary to note that the categorization of these policies is not mutually exclusive because the implementation o one may lead to the implementation of the other. For example, the implementation of both distributive and re-distributive public policy may require the regulatory policy which the standard, rules an regulation for their implementation.

What are the three types of public policy?:

The three types of public policy are explained below;

1. Distributive public policy;

This is the policy which affects the distribution of public goods with the following characteristics.
  • Non-rivao goods
  • Joint supply and joint demand
  • Non-exclusive goods that have spill over effects or externalities .
The sharing of revenue from the national account by major ties of government is distributive public policy because nobody takes the benefits of public goods from anothr. Once it was s provided. Everybody within the jurisdiction is a free rider.

2. Re-distributive public policy;

This is a deliberative action taken by the government to correct the inequality created by the distributive public policy. This policy is aimed at balancing the federation by transferring resources from surplus to deficit region of the country. It is also aimed at bridging the Gap between the rich and the poor in the society. Progressive taxation is one of the example of re-distributive policy therefore moving resources from Rich to the poor.

3. Regulatory public policy;

This policy involves the setting of standard and rules to permit certain actions of the community in order to prevent certain undesirable consequences of such actions. Example are curfew imposed in communites were there is security challenges or restrictions of movement due to elections or other national holidays etc.

Intended an unintended consequences of public policy:

At any point in time the government is engage in various activities, and these activities touch on virtually everything s we could see ron day to day activities of the states. Thus every activity of government is aimed at achieving a specific objectives. For example the introduction of several structural adjustment programs initiated by various government of countries around the globe is aim at diversifying the economy by creating employment opportunities for young people. This is the intended consequences as conceptualize by the adjustment programs. Sometimes this policies may lead to inflation and economic depression.

Public policy as discrete variable;

In statistics the variable is simply the thing we are measuring or analysing. It is anything that can change in value or assume different values at different times. For example, a  change in X may result to a change in  Y an we may want to investigate the effect of change in X on Y. A variable is discrete if it can take certain specific fixed values.

Public policy is a discrete variable in all ramifications. First public policy is measurable through evaluation to determine it's effectiveness in terms of both expected and unexpected consequences. Secondly, public policy is an embodiment of analysis right from it's conception, through formulation and feedback. Thirdly public policy is specifically design for a targeted group for no single Poli can address all the societal problems.
Fourthly, policy is the independent variable which determine the quality of government, which is the dependent variable. Firth, the quality of governance. Which is the dependent variable because All the stages of policy Making are not fractionalize but they are whole numbers public policy determines governance while governance in turn determines public policy, this is a two way casuality.

Public policy an public administration:

Public policy making is the functions of political holders, while public administration belongs to career civil servant or bureacrats. Hence administration and politics are inseparable, they are inclusive rather than exclusive. However , it is important for actors in government agencies to be able to relate this recognition to the actual day today operations of administration an public policy. While political office holders initiate and formulate public policies, the actual implementation is carried out by career civil servant who are specialist in various areas of policies. Thus the administration is the bridge between policies an civil society who are the beneficiaries of these policies. 

It is useful to put in mind that the term public administration embrace both politics and administration itself. There is the concept of public administration as a process and the concept of public administration as politics. These are the two sides of the same coin. 
In conclusion public policy like any other concept of social science has no universal accepted definition. Therefore it's definitions are s many as the researchers in this area. While some believe that public policy is what ever government chooses to do or not to do, others argued that it is what government has actually done that constitutes public policy and not what it intend to do.

Stages of public policy making process:

Public policy making is a dynamic process that involves series of activities which lead to the conceptual, formulation, analysis, implementation, monitoring an evaluation. Every policy decisions is precided by a clear articulation of it's objectives and thorough examination of it's intended an unintended consequences an possible remedies. This can be achieved through policy analysis or what we call a feasibility studies in the private sector. Policy analysis is found in all the stages of policy making right from conception through formulation and implementation to monitoring and evaluation. The process is unitary and mutually interactive an not mutually exclusive. Though different regime types affect the nature of public policy process, it openness, it's ability to recruit actors into the process and even the kind of interest, experience and motivation needed for policy formulation. In the process of public policy making, a number of phase are discernible. These include:
  1. Initiation or conception of policies
  2. Formulation
  3. Implementation.

Public policy making process:

For better understanding, we shall discuss these processes separately even though they mutually interactive.

Initiation or conception;

This is the public policy stage of identification and analysis o the definition of the policy problems or issues. This is the stage where the aggregative demand of the public on the resources of government are analyzed and processed into policy agenda. Unless issues are processed into policy agenda, they cannot be part of public policy. This is the agenda setting stage where all the interested and pressure groups and associations tried to influence the policy actors to include there denands in the policy agenda. This is when the role o analysis comes to play, where policy analyts select the most pressing issues or demands for consideration at a particular point in time, apparently from the most powerful elites in the society. The output of tis stage of policy making becomes the input of the next stage of policy which is policy formulation.

The policy formulation stage;

In the process of Policy formulation, conferences, workshops and seminar are organised in order to harvest ideas, opinions , whishes and will of the people, since formulating policies include those who express the will of the people as well as those who implement that will. The actors in the formulation of policies vary from one regime types to another. For example, in the British parliamentaru system of government, it is the ministers who make policies while career civil servant only serve as confidential advisers to the ministers. The civil servants anonymity is cover up for exercising power without responsibility. In the Uinited state o America presidencial system which most African countries adopted, process of public policy formulation involves both political executive an the two Chambers of the national assembly (the Congress). This open pluralistic institutional structure for policy formulation in the USA government system provides avenues for senior career officials to participate and influence policy outcomes.

Policy implementation;

Public policy implementation is a variant o good governance. Without it, policy cannot be prudently implemented to achieve the objective for which it was formulated. On the other hand, good governance entails the use of political power to efficiently distribute the scarce resources to all the stakeholders through the institutions of the resources to all the stakeholders through the institutions of the state.

Thus the world bank (1999) defines institutions as encompassing the public bodies through which the state discharge it's most fundamental responsibilities, maintaining law an order. Investing in essential insfrastructure, and raising taxes to finance such activities. In a broad sense, institutions are expected to facilitate the generations of ideas, define property right, and contracts, stimulate innovation, lower transactions costs and correct government as well as market failures thus reducing uncertainty and fostering efficiency and enhance strong economic performance. The beauty of public policy is not in it's formulation but in it's implementation because, it is at this stage that resources both of men ,money and materials are mobilized and developed to achieve the desirable results.

Monitoring and evaluation of policy;

Corruption is on of the greatest problem of policy monitoring and evaluation in most countries. This is the last stage of public policy making process.

The essence of  evaluation is to know whether or not policies accomplish what they are indended to accomplish. When there is so much discrepancies between expected and actual effect of policies this could lead to a reformation of policy by correcting the lapse. Consequently evaluation could be described as an investigative auditing of the performance of past intended effects of policies with the unitended effects so that necessary corrections can be made if the causes of descrepancies are known. Therefore when evaluation is lacking , public policy actors cannot respond to mistakes as quickly as possible to remedy the situation, moreover, the evaluation or feedback mechanism is very weak in most developing countries, because of corruption. In most cases, public policy evaluators manipulate their findings to benefit sectional interests of those in power. To conclude the discussion on policy making process, the following observation are imperative.
  1. All stages of public policy making are mutually inclusive
  2. Public policy analyse and public policy evaluation are present in all the stages of policy making process.

Objectives of public policy:

Public policy

The economic system and political ideology of the states determine it's public policy objectives. Public policy is broadly to provide goods and services to all citizens of a state, as the basic purpose of the states is to render the best possible services to it's citizens. Towards this end, we state the objectives of public policy as follows;
  • To develop the strengths of the state, it's efficiency and means if production, exchange, dustrubution and consumption.
  • To provide social an economic security to all citizens of the states by creating employment an welfare schemes as well as reducing inequality between the rich and the poor.
  • To enable the students to develop an analytical ability and use it to understand the political , economic and social environment of the public policy actors.
  • To conduct research and provide technical education mainly in the area o technology and their application in the petroleum and allied industries.
  • To analyze the strengths, opportunities and weaknesses that are present in the macro environment of the state and suggest appropriate strategies an policies to deal with them.
  • To contribute towards the general welfare of the society both nationally an internationally
A new approach to the consideration of objectives is the stakeholders theory which suggest that a state has the responsibility to maintain an equitable an working balance among the claims of the interest group such as pressure groups. Political parties, unions an association and tell general public. The theory maintains that the objectives of the state or organization should be derived from balancing the conficting claims of the various stakeholders. 

In conclusion public policy analysis is a subdivision of political science but it's inter disciplinary romance with other social science discipline such as economics, sociology, education among others led people to believe that it is only social scientists who are qualified to initiate an formulate public policies. This is a serious misconception because natural and physical scientists are also usually initiate by government to participate in the process of public policy initiation, formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation on issues involving the general public.

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