PUBLIC POLICY MAKING: THEORIES
AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS
IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
Ferdous Arfina Osman
ublic policy making is not merely a technical function of gov ernment; rather it is a complex interactive process influenced by the diverse nature of socio-political and other environmental forces. These environmental forces that form the policy context lead to the variation in policies and influences the output and impact. Due to the contextual differences, public policies of the developed countries significantly differ from those of the developing countries. Although the policies of developed countries have proved their effectiveness in many cases, those cannot be applied in understanding the dynamics of the policy process of developing countries. Public policies in the developing countries possess certain peculiarities of their own by virtue of being influenced by an unstable socio-political environment, and face various problems and challenges. Poverty, malnutrition, ill health, illiteracy, low standards of living, unemployment and other common phenomena of these countries have also been creating a growing pessimism about the effectiveness of public policies. Given this situation, in developing countries, policy studies deserve urgent attention. The existing theories of policy making provide useful guidance for analysing the policies of developing countries but they are not quite sufficient for undertaking a comprehensive analysis. This is because most of the policy making theories were derived from the studies of industrially developed societies, which in most cases, are found insufficient to explain the policies of developing countries due to the contextual variations. The objective of this paper is to analyse the factors that make the existing theories inadequate to explain the policies of developing countries. To this end, the paper at first, briefly discusses the basic concepts of public policy making and identifies certain theories of policy making in general that are not suitable for explaining the policy making process of developing countries. Then to make the focus of the study more specific, the theory of ‘health policy making’ has been discussed as a case and shows exactly how a theory derived from a industrially developed country is inadequate to
examine the health policy making process of a developing country like Bangladesh. At this attempt the paper distinguishes the policy context of developing countries from that of the developed countries and also the policy context of Bangladesh from other developing countries. ‘Public Policy Making’: Concepts and Theories
In its simplest sense, ‘policy’ refers to a broad statement that reflects future goals and aspirations and provides guidelines for carrying out those goals. Hill (1993: p.47) defines ‘policy’ as ‘the product of political influence, determining and setting limits to what the state does’. To be more precise, when a government takes a decision or chooses a course of action in order to solve a social problem and adopts a specific strategy for its planning and implementation, it is known as public policy (Anderson 1975). Policy scientists argue that public policy is best conceived in terms of a process (Jenkins, 1978, Rose,1976; Anderson, 1978). This is because policy decisions are not ‘something confined to one level of organization at the top, or at one stage at the outset, but rather something fluid and ever changing’ (Gilliat, 1984:p.345). Rose (1969: p.xi) also made a similar argument when he said, ‘policy making is best conveyed by
describing it as a process, rather than as a single, once-for-all act’. This process involves negotiation, bargaining and accommodation of many different interests, which eventually give it a political flavour. These political interactions happen within the network through which decisions flow, programmes are formulated and implemented and inter organisational dependencies and...
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