What constitutes good public policies?

EDITOR — As most of us rely on the media to assess government policies, both past and present, the tendency has been to use common sense as a criteria to determine whether the policies are good or bad.

As a result, it is common to hear advocates of a particular policy praising some policies without any clear justification.

Most supporters of certain policies do it in a parrot-like fashion.

On the other hand, critics of some policies lambast the policies from left, right and centre again without a clear reasoning for their criticism.

However, we should be sceptical about the criterion of common sense because as my colleague always contends, not everyone has common sense.

Public policy, being a professional field just like other professions like journalism, medicine, nursing and law,  has clear guidelines as to what constitutes a good or bad government policy worldwide.

I intend to share with readers what most public policy scholars tend to agree as the minimum criteria a good policy must meet. 

I thought this could guide those who zealously praise or condemn out right certain government policies.

Overall, successful policies should meet several criteria which most policy scholars and practitioners have identified and these criteria include the following,

- Effectiveness — the policy must achieve its goals and objectives.  For example, if a policy was set to create jobs, then the people must see the jobs and the people employed if the policy is to be viewed as effective.

- Efficiency — this entails realisation of policy objectives in less time and with less cost. For example, a policy that gives farmers inputs worth $50 per farmer but each farmer in turn produces crops worth less than $50, is inefficient. 

- Responsiveness — refers to the extent to which the policy is responsive to the genuine needs of different stakeholders affected by the policy.

For example, a policy meant to empower youths and ends ups benefiting the elites is not being responsive to the needs of the youths,

- Political acceptability — refers to the degree of acceptance of the policy by responsible policy makers, legislators, interested groups and stakeholders.

A policy that only favours a few individuals and does not have the support of the generality of the people does not satisfy this criterion.

That means that good policies must have massive support from the majority of the people inside and outside government.

- Administrative ease — this entails willingness, capacity and ability of implementing agencies and target groups to realise policy objectives within stated time and budget.

A high sounding policy that cannot be implemented because of lack of human, material and financial resources does not meet this criterion.  In short, a good policy is implementable.

- Equity — good policy is fair and equitable and its policy decisions are based upon due process that respects the constitutional rights of individuals.

This also means protecting the legitimate interests of minorities. This explains why some minority groups are represented in some parliaments.

λStrategic — such a policy looks ahead and contributes to long term national goals. The policy is based on extensive local and global environmental scanning.  Thus a strategic policy should be forward and outward looking.

Outcome focused — can also be referred to as a results-oriented policy and strives to deliver desired changes in the real world.

It is not just an aimless or vote-catching ruse.

Hardson Kwandayi

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