Chapter 3 - Policy Formulation.docx

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Western University
Health Sciences
Health Sciences 3400A/B
Sharon Regan

HS 3400A Policy Formulation - Commitment of gov’t in tackling prevalent policy problems facing many countries – corruption, environmental degradation, poverty – is strong - Changing commitment to measureable achievement requires developing a set of policy options met through 3 conditions o Politically acceptable o Administratively feasible o Technically sound - Policy-makers are pressured to choose from 3 unappealing choices o Policy options suffering noticeable deficiencies o Policy options only marginally differing from existing policies o No action at all - Public managers have several challenges when generating better policy options The basics of policy formulation What is policy formulation? - Policy formulation refers to the process of generating a set of plausible policy choices for addressing problems - A range of policy choices is identified and a preliminary assessments of their feasibility is offered - This process extends throughout the policy process - Search for new policy options may precede the initiation of a policy problem in agenda setting and may extend beyond the point where a decision is made and implemented, to the evaluation of existing and future potential means to resolve public problems - Public managers presence at most stages of policy process provides them with many opportunities to integrate the search and selection of policy options with other stages of policy-making Actors in policy formulation - the people involved in policy formulation in any policy-making depends on the nature of the overall political system - policy formulation often conveys an image of high-level activity carried out by a small group of senior officials (appointed and elected) - political executives – cabinet ministers in parliamentary systems, and departmental secretaries in presidential systems – most prominent publically visible figures involved in policy formulation – esp on high profile issues o position they occupy requires them to take a more holistic view of policy options than admin, in practice they are often restricted in the kinds of solutions they might consider by political imperatives - legislators – development of new legislation or through conducting legislative overview/review - key gov’t agencies are typically the most common main actors in policy formulation - most policy options available are developed in gov’t agencies – they have cumulative knowledge, and expertise in particular policy area o sometimes hinders the ability to think outside the box or form new creative ideas - mid-level managers also play a hidden but vital role in the process – in support of their superiors - public managers are: o often faced with task of implementing policies for which both the operational feasibility and the responsible agency’s capacity have been insufficiently considered at the formulation stage o make their own and their agency’s subsequent implementation task easier and more effective by ensuring that policy formulation is conducted as thoroughly as possible o held responsible if policy is found to be poorly designed/ineffective - offers opportunities for public managers to represent interests of individuals and groups without a voice, or with a weak voice - personal level – hone skills and to be noticed by superiors – good for long-term career prospects - actors outside of the government who propose and critique policy options o interest groups – vital contributors to policy formulation in many countries – professional associations to civil society groups o think tanks/ universities – increase in the volume of published research providing food deal of valuable data and evidence about what works and why  think tanks – main goal is to offer easily comprehensible analyses of public problems and the solutions to them – form rich pools of ideas that policy-makers can draw upon in arriving at a range of possibly solutions to existing and future problems Types of policy options - Extent to which the proposed alternatives depart from the status quo - Policy alternative can be categorized in 3 types based on the criterion o Incremental alternatives  Only marginally different from the status quo o Fundamental alternatives  Significant departure from the status quo in terms of the ideas they embody, interests they serve, policy instruments they proposer - Strong tendency for policy-makers to search for incremental alternatives because o Fundamental overhauls require multiple changes to existing policies and information on the likely impact of such changes is more difficult to obtain  These are likely to be set aside on the grounds that they are ‘unproven’ or lack evidence of their efficacy o Fundamental alternatives involve higher risk for many policy-makers  Greater uncertainties and therefore, higher degree of risk they entail for budgets, society, political and admin reps, and job prospects if something goes wrong o Incremental alternatives consume fewer resources  Financial, personnel, and organizational arrangements are already in place and only need to be tweaked to be implemented o Large complex organizations tend to be biased towards the preservation of the status quo - Incremental alternatives inhibits the consideration of new solutions to problems even when there is a pressing need for a new course of action Policy instruments - Policy makers must consider what to do and how to do it - Policy tools aka policy instruments or governing instruments are the means or devices that governments use to implement policies - Number of generic types of policy tools is limited, but each type manifests an almost infinite number of possibly variations and combinations – therefore, cataloguing the tools would be impossible PRIVATE TOOLS PUBLIC TOOLS - Market - Information - Voluntary social organizations - Economic incentives and disincentives - Family - Regulations - State enterprises - Direct provisions - Many unanticipated effects may become apparent during the course of implementation – arising from unfamiliarity on the part of the formulators, decision-makers, implementors - Public tools are divided into two main categories o Private instruments – little or no direct government activity or participation on the basis of the belief that a solution is or will be provided more efficiently and/or effectively by private actors alone  Tasks performed on a largely voluntary basis by private agents who may be motivated by financial rewards, emotional satisfaction, religious inspiration, or ideology  Common to be backed by varying levels of indirect gov’t involvement than to be exercised purely by private actors o Public instruments – more direct, backed by state sovereignty and/or info that resides within gov’t and are directed by policy-makers toward certain types of activities, linked to the expected resolution of policy problems  Gov’t employ taxes, regulations, fines etc. to avoid undesired behaviors Challenges in policy formulation Political challenges - Senior gov’t officials at the top of the policy pyramid usually don’t know what they want so they form general ideas - Even when political masters know which problem they want to address and express their views transparently, the public may not be supportive of the possible solutions o E.g. People hate traffic but they refuse to take public transportation, build more roads - Nature and composition of policy community may also pose political challenges for policy formulation - Close communities: allow neither new actors nor ideas to penetrate into the community - Public managers must be aware of the views of, and resources available to, clients, targets, the public, and other members of policy communities, including those in other parts of the gov’t when proposing solutions to the problem - Monitoring their political environment on a regular basis can go a long way toward helping define and derive a set of policy choices that can address many conflicting ideas and interests as possible Technical challenges - Technical barriers can be the most challenging in policy formulation - Difficulties – understanding the cause of the problem being addressed and the objectives being sought in order to consolidate and scrutinize specific policy options capable of addressing these concerns - When formulating policies, public managers are faces with numerous substantive constraints - Even when problem is narrowly defined, their hands may be tied with respect to the available options - Policy managers often have to consider a wide range of policy options, many with little or no potential for success – identify measures that might make a net improvement to a situation Institutional challenges - Institutional constraints exist for effective policy formulation - Constitutional provisions and the political system form a vital constraint that can limit the range of options available in a given situation - Existence of 2+ levels of gov’t in federal system imposes similar constraints bc many national policies require intergovernmental agreement which is very time-consuming to obtain - Nature of political part and electoral systems can also serve to determine a gov’t ‘po
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