Monday, April 14, 2014

Implementation of Public Policy

The success of government in achieving the developmental goals can be measured only by the implementation of public policies. Policy implementation is one of the most important features which reflects the image of government. Potential ideas of great vision can prove to be futile without a sound strategy for implementation. Of late implementation is becoming a key element in the development strategy. 1960s and 1970s were the decades in which policy implementation got the much needed attention from policy analysts and its importance was realized in development. Still implementation is neglected at various levels.

E C Hargrove called policy implementation as the “missing link” in the study of public policies as little attention was paid to its study. Through implementation public policies in the form of goals and objectives are put into action-programmes that are aimed at achieving the ends. Pressman and Wildavsky defined implementation as the interaction between the setting of goals and actions geared to achieve them. It is important to look at implementation not only in terms of putting the policy into action but also observing its impact on the target group.

Implementation Approaches

In 1970s there was lot of concern about the social policies not bringing about the desired result in society. The area of policy implementation acquired academic interest and various broad approaches the policy implementation were researched upon. Some of these approaches are:

Top-down Model

Scholars such as Pressman, Wildavsky and Derthick are the main advocates of this approach. According to this approach, successful implementation required top-down system of control & communication and the necessary resources to do the job. Five conditions need to be met for successful implementation according to this view:

  • Army like lines of authority result in ideal implementation

  • People would do what they are told to do

  • Given the objectives, norms would be enforced

  • There should be perfect communication between different parts of organization

  • No pressure of time should be there

The top down model relies on the fact that implementation is about getting people to perform certain functions which they are told to do with little deviance from the already decided policies. This approach is akin to Taylorism and classical school of management. It lays too much emphasis on top rather than the workers at middle.

2. Bottom-up Model

Many scholars have shown that ‘top down’ model lacked effective implementation practically. As the implementers had to interact with grassroot level people there was no point having control over the same people rather ‘consensus’ and ‘negotiation should be the key to effective implementation. Great stress is laid on the ‘discretion’ at the cutting edge level of bureaucracy and professionals in this model. For example, doctors, teachers, social workers, engineers etc. can use their discretion to choose the way the policy should be implemented. This may sometimes result in the outcomes which are quite different from the intentions of the policy makers.

3. Policy Action Model

This model lays emphasis on the fact that policy is something which evolves. Similarly implementation will reformulate itself as well as carry out policy. According to this ‘policy action continuum’ an interactive bargaining process takes place over time between the policy makers and the policy enacters. As a result of this interaction only implementation is evolutionary in nature. In this model more emphasis is placed on the issues of power, dependency and individual behaviour in contrast to the above two models.

4. Managerialist Approach

This approach has gained wide acceptance due to increasing culture of globalization and privatization. Managerialist approach is quite vast in its ambit and consists of following approaches:

  • Operational Management

Critical Path Method (CPM) and Project Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) are applied as part of this type of management. CPM aims to identify the activities which are critical to the effective implementation of project on time while PERT on the other hand is used in the implementation of large scale projects that are surrounded by lot of uncertainty.

  •  Corporate Management

Though this approach was developed in the private sector but it has been adopted by the public sector managers as well now. One of its components is Planning Programming Budgeting System (PPBS) which emphasizes analyzing management problems in a strategic way.

  • Personnel Management

Two techniques which have acquired wide acceptance in relation to the personnel management are - Performance appraisal and Management by Objectives (MbO). The former lays stress on appraising the performance of employees against the organizational objectives while the latter emphasizes on integration of employee’s goals with that of the organization.

Managerialist approach gives predominance to the “managerial values”. These values advocate market driven and decentralized processes which emphasize participation rather than hierarchial norms.

Implementation of Public Policy

Problems in Policy Implementation

The reasons of “implementation deficit” are generally overlapping between the developing and developed countries. There may be following problems in the successful implementation of public policies:

1. Conceptual Problems

Many a times the context and nature of problems are not understood, so there is no consensus on the solutions of the problem. Some of the issues to be taken care of while preventing the conceptual problems are:

  • There should not be constraints posed by the outside agencies

  • Time and resource should be adequately planned for the implementation

  • Single implementing agency should be there and it should not depend on other agencies

  • There should be consensus on the objectives to be achieved and they should be defined clearly e. g. in India in National Population Policy, 2000 objectives are not defined properly.

  • There should be proper task clarification

  • No lack of communication should be there in the implementing agency

  • Political will and social support should be strong for the successful implementation

  • There should be proper regulation to ensure the adherence with the public policies e. g. the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, do not provide for effective regulation.

  • Alternative courses of actions should be properly examined before framing public policy e. g. the National Health Policy, 1983 was designed without taking into consideration the possible alternative policies.

  • The policy statement should be clearly stated to avoid multiple interpretations at the field level by the implementers

2. Political Problems

Following types of political problems can be faced during the policy implementation:

  • Centralisation in the policy making & implementation process e. g. inadequate powers to the state governments in India. This is the case in environment & health related laws in India

  • The cutting edge level bureaucracy sometimes acts as interest group in itself. This very badly hampers the policy implementation

  • Different interest groups influence the implementation process e. g. industrialists violate environment protection laws with impunity. They have hold over the implementers at lower level and even at the policy making level.

3. Administrative Problems

The various administrative problems confronted by the policy implementers at ground level are:

  • Lack of capability in the administrative structures. It is exemplified by the fact that often judiciary has to play the role of executive to ensure proper implementation.

  • Competent manpower and the adequate financial means are the other major problems. Health and education sectors in developing countries are the worst affected areas due to these problems.

  • Administrators tend to be idealistic while setting the time frames for implementation but do not stick to these when it come to the actual implementation.

  • Lack of co-ordination and co-operation among the various implementing agencies is often the reason of failure of many well devised policies also e. g. in case of laws relating to poverty alleviation as many as four ministries are in the picture - Ministries of Rural Development/Urban Development/Social Justice/Tribal Development.

4. Lack of People’s Participation

Lack of people’s participation further increases the administration’s problems and the pressure on it to achieve the targets. Some of manifestations of this problem are :

  • Many a times people are apathetic about the policies which affect them directly. This happens often in the areas of health, education, population and pollution control etc.

  • People conceive hampering the work of administration by strikes, protests, demonstrations, movements etc. as the only way of presenting their view and to bring to light their grievances. But these acts demoralize the administration and are a drain on the limited human and financial resources of administration. Movements against the construction of dams and environmental destruction are the cases in point.

Policy implementation is increasingly proving to be the weakest link in the realization of objectives in case of public policies. This is especially the case in case of developing countries. Public policies cannot achieve their objectives as envisioned if a proper scheme is not charted out with the policy itself on how to implement the various provisions of the policy. Hence policy implementation is as important as the policy itself. In this chapter several issues related to the implementation aspect have been considered. These have to be taken care of while implementing any policy. The next chapter will be devoted to discussing Monitoring of Public Policy.


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