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Public policy and its impact

Bureaucrats must not introduce a dominant policy

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Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque and Dr. M Abul Kashem Mozumder :
As public policy is a holistic concept with its vast areas of activities it relishes an interdisciplinary orientation to the study of social phenomenon. It involves an analysis of the causes and consequences of government as the key note of institutional intervention. The significance of policy studies and research with a proper scheme of conceptualization lies in its contribution to the understanding of institutional settings and myriad institutional activities based on constitutional-legal arrangement.  
Needless to say, the government serves to create institutions or allow institution building, organizes programs and allocates resources to facilitate normative processual development at each stage of policy cycle. Policymaking is thus institutionally determined course of action. The consequence of such action affects the society both positively and negatively.
Public policy involves a description of an interaction among various forces-social, economic and political. The development of public policy at each stage has been impacted by these forces.  We have to analyze the impacts of such forces on public policy. All the same we have to focus the impact of public policy on society as a whole.  
Social variables like operative values and ethos determining social relationship may influence the government to maintain a status quo. Or any external influences in the context of globalization may influence the government to induce change. Policy development may be encapsulated by economic realities like market operation, price index, global recession, and inflation and deflation.  
Political forces like political parties, dominant political leadership, trade union and politicized section of the society may regulate the direction of policy development.  But the bureaucratic forces with their inherent interests represent a dominant policy institution ruling the roost as influential members of the policy community.
Policy study is obviously an important part of intellectual effort to understand public policy on a variety of substantive areas like agriculture, industry, education, health and family planning energy and environment. Policy studies are meant to delve deeply into the problems associated with policy making and policy implementation on these substantive areas and others too that have brought to bear upon people as the members of the public. Our striving for social harmony and stable equilibrium must be tampered with understanding the nature of the problematic that entangles the substantive policy areas.
We have written this piece based on understanding of public policy.  In the process of teaching and learning we have developed some insights about policy dynamics. True, books and articles available on the subject are plenty.  All the same literature on public policy is at a premium as far as Bangladeshi scholars are concerned.  We hope this column will be able to help the students and researchers interested in the study of public policy.  
Policy making is an on-going process all with various streams of institutional interventions. The government of the State cannot steer the wheel of public administration without public policy. Any development endeavor without 'projected programmes of goals or 'agenda setting' moves like a ship without rudder. It is only through the 'set agenda' that the government is supposed to serve the policy beneficiaries. What the government intends to do or not to do is institutionally determined course of action.
In a real life operation public policy remains the function of the fundamental political institution.  The policy role of the dominant institutional structural like Presidency, Cabinet, Parliament, judiciary, and public bureaucracy is obvious.  Backed by legitimacy institutions or dominant actors decide upon priorities and take decisions on resource mobilization and distribution of benefits of course within the limits set by broad policy guidelines as enshrined in the Constitution.
Policy functions are performed through an elaborate institutional framework. It 'provides the locus of action, co-ordination, communication of functions, and transmission of inputs, outputs and feedback". Policy management happens to be the functions of co-coordinated institutional efforts. Interrelationship between key institutions provides for effectiveness of policy management. As a matter of fact that public policies are the outcome of interlinked activities of the key institutions.
At the implementation level there is a vast bureaucratic establishment adopting a new executive policy modifying the pre-existing ones through passing orders and issuing ordinances and decrees. Policy action in the domain of execution/ implementation concerns the executive arms extending far to the field administration.
Public policy has been defined as 'a method of action selected in the light of given conditions and usually determine present and future decisions,' Public policy is' the outcome of a deliberate and rational choice of actions for accomplishing the stated objectives, a desired course of events, a selected line of action, a declaration of intent and an implementation of intent'. The feedback in connection with the development of policy also involves evaluation.
For understanding public policy in its truest perspectives one has to understand both policy content and policy context.
Policy content embodies agenda setting considering a long list of priorities and alternatives. What determines the choice of the government is its overriding goals and vision as contained in ideological framework and election manifesto. Agenda setting may be both rhetoric and real. Practically programmes are set according to 'operating procedure of implementing agencies' and changing public demands.
Policy context tantamounts to contextual actors who are generally involved in the process of executing a policy. All the same it reflects the nature of the State, political environment, the context of bureaucracy and also external dimension like globalization.
(Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque, retired Professor and Dr. M Abul Kashem Mozumder , pro-VC, BUP)

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