Solutions for our problems

Coastal pollution Manila Bay/Philippines. The authors say while each of our problems are unique, policy makers/decision makers/problem solvers can take the same steps to come up with not only different but also effective solutions. Picture: WORDPRESS.COM

SOCIETY is increasingly becoming complex with numerous difficult policy problems and people wanting “quick solutions” for each of their problems rather being patient to allow decision-makers to formulate the policy with appropriate analysis as a remedy.
Each problem is unique and there is no standard method that can be used in each problem. So each time a policy is drawn up, analysed and executed to resolve the problem must take this uniqueness into account. However, there are some basic common alternatives/methods which can be highlighted in finding solutions.
Scholars believe every policy options may have political repercussions, “sometimes government dictates what the solution to the problem is and you need to research the best way to implement the policy”. Therefore, the most suitable policy can be developed by research and analysis. Although, every policy cannot be fully objective as it may be influenced by varied factors, policy analysis is an important part of a larger policy planning process.
Thus, policy analysis becomes the most invaluable (brainstorming) step done by expert analysts, planners or public managers who give the reasons and evidence to select the best policy over alternatives to address a particular problem.
The goal of policy analysis is to reduce uncertainly and give relevant information to decision makers about technical, economic and political viability of alternative policies strategies for implementation and consequence of adopting a policy.
This article purports to review the definition, significance and process of policy analysis.

What is a policy?

Policy is perceived to be a “change” and its formulation as a change process to achieve the desired national and educational vision, mission and policy objectives.
Kogen (1975) stated policy is clearly a matter of the ‘authoritative allocation of values; policies are the operational statement of values, statements of prescriptive intent.

Definition of policy analysis

Policy analysis is a process by which one can identify and evaluate the alternative policies, plans, programs and projects that would be used to reduce or resolve political, social, economic, physical problem that may exist (Carl V Patton).
It is about researching the problems, providing relevant data and information and proposing realistic policy options and recommendations. It is a way in which particular actions that could produce most appropriate results to the maximum amount of people in a given space and time and it aims to show this interest is promoted.
This method to find the true value of a policy is essential to choose the best possible policy over other alternatives.
Another definition of policy analysis is systematic thinking about public issues or decisions leading to practical responses that can be broadly communicated … product is central and its quality along these three dimension is crucial. (Bovbjerg, 1985)

Significance to policy making

Policy analysis plays a pivotal role in effective formulation and implementation of a policy. Good policy analysis ensures decision makers are informed about the possibilities of choosing one option or possible solution over others.
The research and analysis is a long process involving environmental scanning, desktop research, discussions, research and development, legal analysing, impact analysing .
Planning is conducted with appropriate use of resources in the long run and concern for the public interest.
Carl V Patton and David S Sawicki’s work Basic Methods of Policy Analysis and Planning has defined six major steps for policy analysis which are summarised below
Firstly, defining, verifying and detailing the problem to be investigated where the identified problem would be tried to be solved by using an efficient and effective outcome process. The policy analyst should question the interested parties and their expected outcome agendas.
Secondly, the evaluation of criteria is done in order to select, compare and measure the most suitable evaluation criteria for the benefit, equity, administrative ease, efficiency, legality, political acceptability and economic benefits.
Evaluating also includes harm or benefit of a particular section of group will depend on the number of possible options and possible option is adopted by analysing the groups involved.
Thirdly, the identification of an alternative policy is conducted in order to evaluate and investigate the proper understanding of the problem and how to go about solving it. Analysis can depend on past policy analysis for thorough analysis and understanding.
All options should be considered to choose the best alternative through immense research, experiment, writing scenarios or concept mapping.
Fourthly, evaluating alternative policies under which a review is conducted by identifying the possible benefits in regard to its social, political and economic dimensions in order to achieve the intended policy aims and objectives. These factors are quantitatively and qualitatively analysed in order to realise the benefit and cost of every alternative.
Fifthly, the display and distinguishing among alternative policies is done through using evaluating alternative criteria to practise approaches of policy formulation process in order to attain justified reasonable policy analysis. In comparing each alternative, it is mandatory to consider the outcome of policy in respect to the economic, legal, administrative and political aspects.
Lastly, monitoring the implemented policy helps to ascertain the possible continuality, or discontinuity of the proposed policy. These steps would determine the impact of the policy during the implementation. It will monitor the policy to ensure its having intended impact and further decide whether there is a need to either continue, modify or terminate it. Thus feedback on the policy is highly valuable for improvements.

Conclusion

As a whole, policy analysis is a cumbersome task as its scope is very broad; analysis of policy process, content, document, impact and further assessment.
I conclude with Pattron and Sawicki’s suggestions of simple policy analysis rules like “learn to focus quickly on the central decision criterion of the problem; avoid the tool-box approach to analyse policy; learn to deal with uncertainty; say it with numbers; make the analysis simple and transparent; check the facts; learn to advocate the passion of others; give the client analysis, not decision; push the boundaries of analysis beyond the policy envelope and lastly, be aware that there is no such thing as an absolute correct, rational and complete analysis”.

*Disclaimer: This article was compiled by Dr Sakul and Bhawna Kundra. Dr Sakul Kundra is an assistant professor in history at FNU’s College of Humanities and Education in Lautoka. Bhawna Kundra is a French and business management teacher and MYP acting co-ordinator at International School Nadi. The views expressed are theirs and not of this newspaper or their respective employers. For comments or suggestions, email. dr.sakulkundra@gmail.com.

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