Key Characteristics and Examples of Successful Public Policy


Key Characteristics and Examples of Successful Public Policy

Public policy is a definite and purposeful course of an action selected or adopted by the government and its institution from among alternatives to solve or address a given societal problem. Usually societies at a given point in time are confronted with problems and government is always seen formulating and implementing policies to solve them.

Examples of societal problems that government makes and implement policies to solve includes, unemployment, insecurity, armed robbery, poor standard in education, dwindling national income, corruption, low quantity in agricultural production, inflation, low standard of industrial products, poor health system, poor access to financial services for economic activities, rising social and economic inequality, political, religious, social and ethnic violence or agitation, poor transportation system, poor housing system, drug abuse, rape and poor public service delivery.


What is Public Policy?

Public policy is said to be a combination of laws, regulations, actions, policies and a lot of other factors concerning a given topic. Such public policies of a nation are shaped over time by education, advocacy groups, influences of lobbyists, and conflicting interests of special interest groups.

So the public policy process is a very dynamic and complicated process that occurs via public forums. 

First, the problems of the public receive recognition and identification. And the process of public policy will help sort the problems. These policies can be political, economic, cultural or social in nature.

Let us take an example of traffic violations.

Say for example in India the fine for traffic violations uses to be very lenient. But now they have been revised and made quite strict. However, they are still not quite as strict as the ones in Hong Kong or Singapore. This can be chalked up to the public policies of the nation.


General Characteristics of Public Policy

The meaning and nature of public policy will become clearer through throwing light on dissimilar characteristics of public policy.

Some of the key characteristics of public policy making are: 

  • Goal­ Oriented

All public policies have the ultimate aim to fulfill certain goals the government has in mind. The reason for the formation and implementation of these policies is the welfare of the citizens of the nation. So the government can use public policies to implement government programs to achieve their goals. 

For example, the current government has a financial inclusion policy. They wish to enlist the majority of our rural population in banks through the Jan Dhan Yojna.

  • Result of Government

Action Public policy is the result of the collective of all government actions. So the actions and activities of all government officials collectively integrate to form public policy. 

The entire legal structure of our country stands on the collective actions of its representatives. From the actions of the highest judge in the land to that of lawyers and clerks forms the basis of our judiciary.

  • Can Take Various Forms

Public policy forms by the decision of the government to do something, or even to not do something. The decision of the government can represent itself in many forms like law, notices, ordinances, judicial decisions, executive orders, and judgments etc. 

In India most public policies will be in a written format, however, this is not a necessity

  • Depicts Concern of the Government

Public policy is the solution to a problem the society is facing. This means the solution for the betterment of society has the sanction of the government. So it is of great importance to entrepreneurs and businessmen in a country. 

They need assurance that the government is looking after their concerns and economic interests as well. And if the government refuses to take any action it reflects their ignorance or disconcert. This will warn its citizens of the government’s lack of empathy and concern.

  • Public Policy Making is a Very Intricate Process

Policy making involves several components, which are interconnected through communication and feedback loops and which interact in dissimilar methods. Some parts of the process are explicit and directly observable, but several others proceed through hidden channels that the officials themselves are often only partly aware of. 

These hidden procedures are very hard, and often impossible to observe. Therefore, guidelines are often shaped through a series of single decisions that result in a „policy‟ without any one of the decision makers being aware of that process.

  • It is a Dynamic Process

Policy making is a process that is a continuing activity taking place within a structure; for sustenance, it requires a continuing input of possessions and motivation. It is a dynamic process, which changes with time, the sequences of its sub processes and stages vary internally and with respect to each other.

  • Making Comprises Several Components

The complexity of public policy making as we know is a significant feature of policy making. Public policy formulation often involves a great diversity of substructures. The identity of these substructures and the degree of their involvement in policy making, vary because of dissimilar issues, circumstances and societal values.

  • Policy Structure Creates Dissimilar Contributions

This feature suggests that every substructure creates a dissimilar, and sometimes unique, contribution to public policy. What sort of contribution substructures create, depends in part on their formal and informal features which vary from society to society.

  • Directed at the Future

Policy making is directed at the future. This is one of its most significant features since it introduces the ever-present elements of uncertainty and doubtful prediction that establish the basic tone of almost all policy making. 

Actual policy making tends to formulate policies in vague and elastic conditions; because the future is so uncertain. It permits policy makers to adjust their policy according to emerging facts and enables them to guard against unforeseen circumstances.

  • Mainly Formulated through Governmental Organs

Public policy is also directed, in part, at private persons and non­governmental structures, as when it calls for a law prohibiting a certain type of behavior or appeals to citizens to engage in private saving. 

But public policy, in most cases, is primarily directed at governmental organs, and only intermediately and secondarily at other factors.

  • Aims at Achieving what is in the Public Interest

Though hard it might be to discover out what the '„public interest” may correctly refer to, the term nevertheless conveys the thought of a “general” orientation and seems so to be significant and important.

Furthermore, there is good evidence that the image of “public interest” powers the public policy making process and is so at least, as conceived through the several public policy making units, a “real” phenomenon, and a significant operational tool for the study of policy making.

  • Use of Best Possible Means

In abstract terminology, public policy making aims at achieving the maximum net benefit. Benefits and costs take in part the form of realized values and impaired values, respectively, and cannot in most cases be expressed in commensurable units.

Often, quantitative techniques can so not be used in this area of public policy making but neither the qualitative significance of maximum net benefits as an aim nor the necessity to think broadly in relation to the alternative public policies in conditions of benefits and costs is so reduced.

  • Involvement of Several Bodies/Agencies

Industrial workers, voters, intellectuals, legislators, bureaucrats, political parties, political executives, judiciary etc. are the several organs that participate in public policy making and can power the policy process to a great extent.


Key Characteristics of Successful Public Policy

Successful Public Policy = Good Policy + Good Policies

Good Policy: These occurs when it is concluded that the policy will produces a measureable and a positive outcome.

Good Politics: These happen when no one is expected to criticizes policy or the individuals and the organizations behind it.


The Rising Importance of Public Policy

It is clear from the above sections of the article that policy is a purposive course of action in dealing with a problem or a matter of concern within a specific time frame.

Before going into the question of importance which is attached to policy formulation, implementation and monitoring, it would be better to recapitulate the components of public policy. Policy is purposive and deliberately formulated. Policy necessity has a purpose or a goal.

It does not emerge at random or through chance. Once a goal is decided the policy is devised in such a method that it determines the course of action needed to achieve that goal. A policy is well thought out and is not a series of discrete decisions.

A policy is what is actually done and not what is planned or desired, a statement of goals does not constitute a policy. Policy also delineates a time frame in which its goals have to be achieved. Policy follows a defined course of action viz. formulation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. Actually the scope of public policy is determined through the type of role that the State adopts for itself in a society.

In the classical capitalist society, State was assigned a limited role and it was expected that the State would merely act as a regulator of social and economic activity and not its promoter. With the advent of planned view of development, State began to be perceived as an active agent in promoting and shaping societies in its several activities. This was measured as a great change in the role of a State.

Public policies expanded their scope from merely one of regulation to that of development. Expansion in scope led to many other consequences like several more government agencies and institutions came into being in order to formulate and implement policies.

In India, the Planning Commission and its attendant agencies came into being in order to formulate policies and develop perspectives that could describe the direction which the country would follow.

So, the first major goal of public policies in our country has been in the area of socio­economic development. Wide ranging policies were formulated in the area of industrial and agricultural development.

Several policies were converted into Statutes, like Industrial Development and Regulating Act or Land Tenancy Act. Others were kept as directives in the several plan documents. For all policy directions, the Five Year Plans became the major source. These policies were of two types, one of regulation and the other of promotion. Laws laid down what could be done or not done through the entrepreneurs.

This could be in the larger area like what goods can be produced through the public or whether certain goods can be traded only through government agencies. Laws also specified how State agencies themselves were to give goods and services like electricity, transport etc.

The State undertook similar responsibility in the social sphere.

Dowry Act, Divorce Act, etc., are examples of this. But socio­economic transformation was not the only problem when India became independent. There were also troubles of national integrity, the external environment was a source of threat, and the country had to develop appropriate policies to defend itself. Separately from this, there have been internal challenges.

Regionalism has given rise to fissiparous tendencies that have to be countered in the long­term perspective. These would contain not only defense policies but also similar efforts at decentralization that make greater national cohesiveness.

Therefore, since independence, public policies in India have been formulated with a view to achieve socio­economic development and maintain national integrity. These goals have been intricate demanding coherent policies. This has been a hard task because goals have had to be divided into sectors and sub­sectors. Several a times through its very nature, policies have been contradictory.

What may be rational for economic development may not be so for national integration.

Therefore, the need of a strong Centre to cope with external threats etc. is significant but it may go against the principle of decentralization which gives for greater national cohesion of a heterogeneous society. This is the cause why ascertaining of the actual impact of public policy becomes a necessity. These days policy analysis is acquiring a lot of importance in the realm of the study of public administration.

This trend is observable all in excess of the world. The success of policy formulation, execution, and monitoring ultimately depends on the success of policy analysis.

In India, this trend appeared with the launching of our Five Year Plans. As the years passed through, one Five Year Plan was followed through another and disillusionment started setting in. Goals of socio­economic development could not be achieved.

Those who were supposed to benefit from the development effort began to lose. Attention shifted to the management and administration in order to discover out why the policies were failing to achieve their objectives. This investigation did not contain the questions of policies being right or wrong. It took the crises of the 1960s to raise the issue of correctness of policy.

Disenchantment with the development processes followed the two wars in 1962 and 1965. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) enforced a devaluation of the rupee in 1966 and a terrible drought ravaged the land throughout 1966­68. It became apparent that the development policies were in trouble.

In the early 1970s another war, drought, and the oil crisis gave a jolt to the plan that had been followed until then. The culmination was the imposition of national emergency in 1975 to cope with the rising dissatisfaction.

It was the emergence of the turbulent period that led to the questioning of the policies that had been followed. It was no more a question of implementation alone. The argument that began to gain the popular view was that policy itself was faulty and all the blame could not be put on administration.

The first to pick up this line of reasoning was the discipline of economics. The economic failures dominated the scene and so it was natural that economists were the first ones to raise questions in relation to the appropriateness of policy.

Students of public administration began to emphasize that implementation failures could also emanate from inadequacy of public policy and so policy analysis should also be incorporated in the area of study of public administration. This argument got support from certain developments in the discipline of public administration. In view of the everyday experience, it was becoming hard to sustain the classical concept of separation of politics and administration. This distinction categorized policy formulation and implementation as two separate activities.

Policy formulation was regarded as a political activity and policy implementation an administrative one. But this distinction got increasingly blurred and it was not an easy task to determine where policy formulation ended and where policy implementation began. It came to be accepted that both were interactive processes and had to be seen in an integrated method. With this change in view students of public administration began to devote greater attention to the troubles of policy formulation and power of policy design on implementation.

It is in this method that policy analysis has become a significant focus of study. Policy makers have also shown great interest in it because it ultimately helps in improving the effectiveness of policy.

Several universities and research institutes are involved in policy analysis. The government gives for a lot of funds in this area.


Successful Public Policy Begins at Inception

To create a successful and strong policy, you must first do the following:

  •        Define the problem
  •        Gather evidence
  •        Identify causes
  •        Select best solution
  •        Develop solutions
  •        Evaluate a policy
  •        Evaluate benefits and cost
  •        Utilize the prince system
  •        Develop political strategies


Strong and Successful Public Policy

A strong and successful Public Policy does the below listed:

  •        Solve public problem effectively and efficiently
  •        Serves justices
  •        Supports democratic constitutions and processes
  •        Encourage an active/ empathic citizenship


Ask yourself  

  •        Does the policy solve people problems?
  •        Does the policy use government?
  •        Is the policy constitutional?
  •        Is the policy realistic?
  •        The Public Policy process if a onetime process. True or False?


What is Good Policy?

In a nutshell, a good policy is one that solves problems without creating a political rift. Whenever it is believed that it can solve a problem without one party disagreeing with its inception, it can go forward without issue. This policy should solve a public problem without violating the legal boundaries set down by federal, state, and local laws. It must encourage an active citizenry, furthermore, as well as the democratic process.


Successful or Failure

Questions of whether the policy solves the problem and whether or not it is legal affect the successes and failures. For example, California’s attempt to cut down on gun crime saw a ten year foundation that cut down on the gun violence rate by fifty percent; Since the foundation did not attempt to restrict gun ownership it had no questions about constitutionality.

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