What is Public Policy? Characteristics, Process, Types

  • Post last modified:16 August 2023
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What is Public Policy?

Thomas R. Dye defined public policy as public policy is whatever government chooses to do or not to do.

Richard Rose defined public policy as public policy is not a decision, it is a course or pattern of activity.

Carl J. Friedrich defined public policy as public policy is a proposed course of action of a person, group or government within a given environment providing opportunities and obstacles which the policy was proposed to utilise and overcome in an effort to reach a goal or to realise an objective or purpose.

Defined simply, public policy refers to all the actions and steps that the government of a country takes as a response towards public or realworld problems. For example, when the Government of India rolled out vaccination programme earlier, there was inhibition among the people. The Government advertised, apprised people about the benefits, created awareness, so as to encourage people to get vaccinated. This was done in public interest.

The public policy framework comprises a broad set of regulations, laws, ordinances, policies, etc., and is used for governing the actions of groups and organisations. The problems associated with public policies need to be addressed by laws and regulations adopted by the government for reaching a solution. The policies are goal-oriented to fulfil certain objectives of the government.

The primary reason for the creation and implementation of public policies is the welfare of citizens of the country. Public policies are made for implementing a solution to a problem the society is facing or for its betterment.

The main characteristics of public policies are as follows:

  • Public policies are created in response to some sort of issue or problem that requires attention

  • Public policies are in form of laws or regulations that govern a particular issue or problem

  • Public policies are made for the welfare of the public

  • Public policies are oriented toward a goal or desired state that includes solution of a problem

  • Public policies are made either by the government or by the government after consulting the public

  • Public policies making is an ongoing process that does not always have a clear beginning or end because the who benefits from the policies and who bears the burden resulting from the policy are continuously reassessed, revisited and revised

  • Public policy may be positive or negative. If it is positive, then it requires the concern and action of the government and if it is negative, then it involves a decision by the governmental officials regarding not taking any action

The process of creating public policies is an interactive, dynamic and continuous process that includes the various stages of evaluation, implementation, adoption and review. These are collective actions that are taken by the government in form of judgments, rules and it includes law, rules, regulations, case studies, judgments, government programs.

Public Policy Formulation Process

Identification of the Problem

In this step, any problem that needs the attention of public and requires policy formulation is identified.

Formulation of Policy

The problem identified in the first step is placed on the government’s agenda to find a solution and formulate the policy. This happens after government officials filter the range of plausible policy choices by omitting infeasible options. This step often involves a period of intense debate. For an effective policy formulation, it is essential that people engaged are knowledgeable and well-versed with institutional processes.

Well-formulated policies are rational, unambiguous and are effective in achieving the intended objectives. For example, a ruling party in power wants to formulate a policy. So, it was even call up the opposition party to gain their consent and ask for their feedback. By doing so, the party in power will be able to circumvent any friction in future.

Adaption of the Policy

In this step, the policy formulated in the previous step is adopted to resolve the problem.

Implementation of the Policy

In this step, the policy is implemented as a solution to the problem.

Evaluation of the Policy

After the policy is implemented, the public policies are evaluated which helps to regulate and rectify the operations of governance.

For addressing the needs of different people of the society, public policies are divided into different types as follows:

  • Regulatory policies: These policies are concerned with the regulation of trade, business, safety measures, public utilities, etc. Such regulation is done by independent organisations that work on behalf of the government to regulate the different sectors of the economy.

  • Substantive policies: These policies are concerned with the general welfare and development of the society, the programs such as the provision of education and employment opportunities, economic stabilisation, law and order enforcement or anti-pollution legislation.

  • Distributive policies: These policies are meant for specific segments of society. It can be in the area of the grant of goods, public welfare or health services, and more. These mainly include all public assistance and welfare programs. For example, Public Distribution System (PDS) in India.

  • Redistributive policies: These are the policies that are concerned with the rearrangement of policies for bringing social and economic changes. Redistributive policies are a pivotal component of public policies as they minimise inequality and stimulate sustainable development in economic, social and environmental aspects. They exhibit a powerful policy instrument for improving equality of outcome through the redistribution of income and providing equal opportunities by improving the distribution of income-generating assets, such as human capital and wealth.

  • Capitalisation policies: These policies are concerned with financial subsidies given by the Union government to the state and local governments. Such subsidies may also be granted to the central and state business undertakings.

  • Facilitating policies: The government often establishes banks, institutions, etc. that facilitate and promote business in an economy. These institutions assist in implementing policies to promote a business activity. Such policies are meant for facilitating the growth of business in an economy. For example, government has set up the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) for facilitating rural credit policies.

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