Sunday, September 29, 2013

Significance of policy science and stages in policy cycle

Policy science: 
    Policy science is an approach to solving problem. The problem might be regional, national etc... the policy science gives us the procedures by which problem solving can be done. It helps us to make better decisions and promotes common good and dignity to all. Policy science gives emphasis to comprehend problems and to develop realistic and desirable recommendations to solve it. With this aim it draws knowledge from various disciplines without giving privilege to anyone discipline.

Significance of Policy science: 
    The importance of the public policy is limited by the role of the state in a society. Earlier in 19th society, the state was perceived merely as a regulator, so that the significance of the public policies were less. Later during 20th century, the state has assumed more comprehensive role so as to shape the society in various dimensions. In India, state has a larger role in society and it formulates long-term policies which directs the socio-economic development of the country. Not only in economic sphere but also in social sphere, the state has been playing a vital role in shaping society through laws like... Anti-Dowry Act, Divorce Act. Since the role of the state in society is huge and its policies have been affecting people in their day-today life, importance of the public policy is also the highest. In Academic sphere also, the importance of policy analysis is becoming high, since the policy formulation, execution and monitoring is depending upon the rigor of the policy analysis to a large extent.

Cycle of policy process:

    Many scholars identified various element that maps with the stages of policy process. The below mentioned policy cycle was an evolved version of the efforts of those scholars.

Introduction :- The cycle of policy process indicates the linkages of the framework in policy context. Information is the basis of this framework. That info is derived from system performance. That performance is expressed in terms of "input, output, outcome".

Example :- The policy cycle approach for National Health Policy would have following information processing framework.

As we know "Inputs" will be expressed as 'needs and demands'. "Need" is the condition that makes people to ask for action. Here, it may be illness, symptoms or poor health status. The 'Demands' are expressed as desires related to the required action whether they're needed or not. The 'action' or 'delivery of service' has to meet these needs and demand and such other inputs. 
The output of the service will be described as 'use of services' (how many people use the health service) and the cost & quality of the service. 
And Finally the outcomes are well-being and health of the public and their satisfaction.

Stages in policy analysis:
    To explain the policy analysis clearly, we shall consider an example - Alternative pollution control measures for the Ganges.

Identifying the Underlying problem:  This is the first step, i.e., "why there is problem at all". This description should be clear and understandable and should not be vague or mundane description.
In our example, Ganes is polluted by the industrial wastes and untreated sewage water. This is the context of the problem the next step is to find "what we want to achieve?". Here, our objective is just not to control industries, but to make Ganges clean.

Determining Alternative for policy choice: In this step, we have to determine "which action to take?". Here it is important to know what kind of action will give positive result in any particular situation.
In our example, we have following choices,
    * Somebody should be given right/responsibility to clean and sue the polluter.
    * Ask the polluter to stop dumping wastes on the river or ask them to reduce it by particular quantity.
    * Make the polluters to pay for their damage to river, ask them to purchase rights to discharge some amout of pollutant and use the money for pollution control     devices.
    * Assign the responsibility of cleaning Ganges to the state government or local authority.
We can refine the above stated choices, it requires creative thought and hard work. But often in reality this is done as a mechanical process.

Forcasting and Evaluating the alternatives: In this step, evaluation of each alternative choice is done. This could be done by using approproiate computer models. If the result of alternative policy choice is uncertain, then decision tree should be developed and probability of each outcome should evaluated.
In our example, we need to find out how Ganges water responds to various types of pollution and weather conditions. Computer models could be used here. And the decision tree can be prepared to find out the relative merits and demerits of various policy choices. This tree would give a view of cost-benifit analysis of the alternative choices.

Making a choice: This can be done simply by looking at the consequences of each policy alternatives and choosing the best one. Otherwise, this step can be done by anaysing about how people would respond to the possible choices which might make this step a complex one. Since, future is uncertain making a choice is always complex. Many policy analysis are gathering dust, because they haven't been understood properly. To make better policy choices it is essencial that policy analysis is clear and easily understandable. be continued in Part 2 of this article.

This article is a short version and may not have all the details. Please refer this only for a brush-up.


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