Public policy is a field of study in the international system which is relatively new. It is said to have been started after the Second World War in North America and Europe when there was a problem in regards to policy implementation that created a gap between government and public. During this time government was unable to cope up with the newly emerging challenges hence the introduction of policies to address these problems. Pacesila & Profirou, 2006 narrated that the growing number of schools of higher learning instilled knowledge in learners that prompt them to come up with some researches that end up coming up with theories on how problems within the society can be resolved.
A policy in most cases comes in the form the written and regulated statements about priorities and standards of issues to be achieved. It is actually referred to a different path of action needed for the pursuit of preferred goals in a particular context that helps the individual or organizational decision in making. Bates & Eldredge, 1980 defined policy as a statement that provides a guide for decision making by members of the organisation charged with the responsibility of operating the organisation as a system. Whereas Richard & Baldwin, 1976:122 define the same as the formulation of rules, norms and prescriptions that are intended to govern the subsequent decisions and actions of government. Patterning to these definitions, policies act as guideline on how an organization can achieve its objectives.
Public policy is a field of study that has different meanings. Different scholars have defined it according to the discipline under study such as economics, as well as administration science. Hogwood & Gunn defined public policy as a label in the field of activities, as an expression of general purpose of state affairs, as a specific proposal, as a decision of government, as a formal authorization, as a programme, as an output, as an outcome, as model of pattern, as a process.
To begin with, public policy is considered to be a label of some field of activities as it is regarded as activities of the government such as in the field of economics, social or political arena For instance the government of Malawi through the Malawi Revenue Authority collect revenues inform of tax from its citizen as well as foreign investors to achieve its objectivities.
It is also regarded as an expression of the general purpose of state affairs especially when political parties as well as the government uses it to achieve their desired goal. For instance the HIV/ AIDS policy aiming at reducing the risk of spreading the pandemic.
Public policy is also regarded as a proposal as it forms part of the statements that political organization would like to see being undertaken by the government. During the 2014 campaign, the DPP government in its manifesto promised that it will construct community colleges of which when it came into power it made it possible to fulfill this promise.
Furthermore Hogwood & Gunn defined public policy as decision of the government where the focus is on how specific situations are analyzed. For instance, the settlement of the Lake Malawi wrangle between Malawi and Tanzania.
Public policy is also regarded as a programme as it serves as a means through which government pursues its objectives. For instance the malata and fertilizer subsidy programme implemented by the DPP regime.
Public policy is also considered as official authorization since it is sometimes formulated by the parliament or other statutory bodies requiring an action of any kind by the government. For instance the political party bill of 2016 was drafted and then presented to parliament and tabled as a bill and then passed into law.
Public policy is also defined as a product or results. This is a term used to identify what is actually achieved. In this case the results can be classified as output or as an outcome
In addition to the above Hogwood & Gunn definitions, Knoepfel et al, 2011 defined public policy as a “power games in a specific institutional context played out between various public actors who make concerted effort to resolve a collective problem in collaboration or in opposition to para-state and private actors” As such, in relating to the above definitions, Dye (1976) define public policies as reaction to what the government thing, why it does these issues as well as looking at the impacts that can come out of its action.
The policy process
This is a process where different solutions addressing different aspects of problems are balanced. Each and every policy has three key elements: a problem definition, goals to be achieved, and the policy instruments to address the problem and achieve the goals. Mostly policy may be in a written form since it takes the form of a planned policy document that has been discussed. It can also be unwritten when it has been reviewed, approved and published by a policymaking body.
Who Makes Public Policies?
Policies usually comes from individuals who have powers and authorities to impose guidelines for action. It is made by elected officials acting in concert with advisors from the higher levels of the administration. Most of the time government ministers articulate policies on behalf of the government that are put in action by the non-elected officials.
Public Policy Cycle
Public policy development is a process that involves the repetition of the steps rather than a linear one. The policy cycle relates a variety of important group of actors in the policy process through their involvement with the different stages. Those that are involved in the policy process are called policy actors. There are five key phases that forms a policy. The first phase is the emergence of a problem requiring the consideration of the public and decision makers themselves. The second phase is the process of placing identified problem on the government agenda with the aim of finding the solution. The third phase is the formulation of several alternatives to resolve the problem. The fourth phase is the adoption of a policy and lastly is the implementation and evaluation of the policy.
The concept of public is a contested field if study as on its own it has several definition as defined by several scholars. Hogwood & Gunn defined it as a label in the field of activities, as an expression of general purpose of state affairs, as a specific proposal, as a decision of government, as a formal authorization, as a programme, as an output, as an outcome, as model of pattern, as a process. Knoepfel et al, 2011 also defined it as a power games in a specific institutional context played out between various public actors who make concerted effort to resolve a collective problem in collaboration or in opposition to para-state and private actors. In a nutshell public policy is what government want to do or not do such.
Dye, T, R., (1976): Policy analysis: What Goverments do, why they do it, and what difference it makes. Toscaloosa: Alabama University Press.
Expertise and the Policy Cycle: http://www.gdrc.org/decision/policy-cycle.pdf retrieved on 11/11/2018
Hogwood, B., Gunn, W, & Lewis, A. (1984): Policy Analysis for the Real World. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
Knoepfel, P., Laurre, C., Varone, F, & Hill, M, (2011): Public policy Analysis. Bristol: Policy Press.
Pal, L., A. beyond Policy Analysis: 3rd Edition. 2005.