Public Policy Processes

Public Policy is a definite course or methods of action selected by government institution among alternatives to achieve a given objective. Public policies are the governmental programmes, goals and purposes considered individually or collectively, that is, the authoritative decisional output of a politico-managerial system. These may be expressed in a variety of forms, including laws, legal ordinances, court decisions, executive orders, governmental rules and so on. The making of public policy for a country as large, populous and diverse as India is intrinsically a more complex task than in a smaller political unit.

Public policy-making in India has characterized by a failure to anticipate needs, impacts, or reactions which could have reasonably been foreseen many of times due to different needs of the different section of society, change in the ruling party or by improper implementation of public processes, thus impeding economic development. Policies have been reversed or changed more frequently than warranted by exogenous changes or new information. Ex- Frequent Amendments in GST policy.

Public Policy Process refers to the steps involved in the determination and choice of a definite course or method of action by the government institution to achieve a given objective. The 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 the existing approach (policy).

The public policy process:

Public policy formulation and policy implementation are two distinct but closely interrelated functions of the government. Public policy is laid down by the legislature or the political authorities, who are vested with the power of giving policy the requisite legal authority (legitimacy). The policy implementation aspect is supposed to be in the domain of the executive (the bureaucracy or the administrative arm of the government). This distinction is in line with the traditional Wilsonian politics administration dichotomy. As per it, there are different spheres in which executive and legislative works. Further in ‘Minnowbrook Conference’ in 1968., “it was asserted that the dichotomy between politics and administration was unreal, as the legislature and the executive collaborated closely in policymaking, and that policy process was multi-actor-centric’’.

Administrative processes and structures have always witnessed an obvious ‘transgressing and transcending’ of these demarcated roles. The legislature lays down a policy in general terms, which is usually expressed in the form of Constitutional and legal enactments. In order to give precise expression to the provisions underlying policies, the administrative or the executive arm of the government also joins hands in policymaking. And this role of the administrative arm of the government in policymaking has grown in importance over the years. Therefore, policymaking as well as policy implementation has come into the hands of the administrators to a large extent.

A policy cycle generally includes the following stages:

-Identification of policy problems, through demands for government action

-Agenda setting or focusing the attention of public officials on specific public problems

-Formulation of policy proposals, their initiation and development by the policy planning organisations, executive, legislative and interest groups

-Adoption and legitimation of policies through the political actions of the government, interest groups, and political parties

-Implementation of policies through bureaucracies, public expenditure and activities of executive agencies; and

-Evaluation and analysis of policy implementation and impact

Despite the formal control of the civil service by the political executive (Ministers at the Central and state levels as well a Members of Legislative Assembly) in parliamentary democracies like India, the debate on the role of higher civil servants in policy-making and a constant fear over their growing influence in this area is gaining steam. It has been argued that, on the one hand, their role is to develop and carry out the will of those who lay down policies. On the other hand, there is also recognition of the fact that they are actively involved just like the other pressure groups, political parties and the like in the making of policy in its formative as well as secondary stages.

Conclusion: These aspects are usually embodied in a public policy that is authorized by the legislature and enacted in the form of legislation. Owing to the magnitude and complexity of public activities, legislation cannot provide for details required for moulding a public policy, with the result that appointed public officials are granted discretionary powers to enable them to execute legislation. In practice, the execution of public policies (normally as legislation) is dependent upon the support of public officials (the bureaucrats at the upper, middle and local rungs) for those policies. They work in conjunction with political office bearers and could be referred to as associates striving to achieve the same goal. It is therefore a prerequisite that they should trust one another. For public servants, politics is a sine qua non. The policy functions of public officials or the bureaucrats, especially top echelons, are manifold. They are policy formulators, policy innovators, policy monitors, policy implementers, policy advisors, policy analysts; and policy evaluators. Thus, the role of bureaucracy is crucial in the entire policy process.

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