Friday, 6 July 2012

Policy-Making and Policy-Implementation [ARC II]

Extract from ARCII- Report 13, "Organizational Structure of Government of India", pgs 105- .119

[Note: Useful for Public Policy unit of PubAd Paper1- Spurthi].

Policy Making to Policy Planning
…Policy planning is an improvement on policy making and came into vogue in the 1960s. Policy planning takes into account the present national and international scenarios as also the likely future contingencies in a given area of interest, and provides a menu of choices enabling the organisation, whether it is the government or any category of enterprise, to prepare itself in advance to meet those situations. 

Whereas, policy making is working out the response when one is face-to-face with a situation. Policy planning is of help in shaping events along directions conducive to best results while policy making caters to a current requirement in an existing context.The domains of politics and economics eminently lend themselves to policy planning rather than policy making. The reason is that once a political or economic event has come to pass, it becomes a question of catching up with its fallout by trying out suitable remedies, whereas what is of greater importance is either preventing such an event from happening at all, or minimising the harm and 
maximising the gains. There is all the difference between dealing with a looming crisis by anticipatory action and reacting to a crisis that has already occurred — in short, between fire-proofing and fire-fighting.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs was the first to start a division for Political and security Policy
Planning in 1967; soon thereafter, the Union Ministry of External Affairs also set up a similar division for Foreign Policy studies with K. R. Narayanan, (former President of India), as the Director. Both units worked in concert taking a holistic view of policy planning in domestic and foreign affairs.The paper on the agrarian situation in states predicting in 1968 a phenomenon that subsequently came to be known as Naxalism has been widely cited in all academic discourses worldwide for its conclusion that in the absence of vigorous implementation of land reforms, the Green Revolution was bound to turn to red.

Regrettably, the waning of enthusiasm on the part of Ministers and the present generation of civil servants for policy planning is the cause of ad-hocism witnessed in the handling of issues at the centre and in the states. Disturbingly, the Government seems to be reacting to national security and terrorism on a tragedy-by-tragedy basis, rather than having a comprehensive and long-term strategy. The same tendency to wait on events instead of being abreast of them marks external relations as well. It is time policy planning was built into the process of decision making to enable the country to be ahead of developments without being overtaken by ugly surprises.

Shriram Maheshwari has elucidated the principles governing the Indian bureaucracy (Maheshwari, 1990, pp. 47-48): “The machinery of government at the Centre (and also in the States) is designed on the basis of two important administrative principles. An overriding belief in the desirability of structural separation of policy-making…and administration has led to the creation of an organization that is concerned exclusively with policy-making and another that is charged with implementing responsibilities. As a result, the machinery of the Government of India is a three-tiered one in which the policy-making organ is the secretariat; and implementation is the responsibility of the attached and subordinate offices.”

“But sound policy-making requires first-hand knowledge and experience of the conditions of implementation. This belief underlies the second administrative philosophy: that the policymaking organ of the Government of India must have no permanent cadre of officers but must instead be manned by personnel who are taken on fixed-term deputation from implementation levels so as to project field realities fully into the process of policy-making. 

However, in practice, the existing structure in Government of India combined with the allocation of powers and functions severely constrains the policy making role at the apex level. This is because Ministers as well as secretaries to government, both at the Government of India and state levels, have multiple and demanding responsibilities leaving them little time to reflect on important policy and strategic issues. As a result, the policy-making capacity in India is often weak. This calls for a broad separation of policy formulation and implementation responsibilities.

It is advisable that  for the purpose of implementation, autonomous organizations like executive agencies be set up to carry out operational responsibilities.The executive agency is not a policy-making body; but it is by now a time-tested, highly effective executing body in the public sector, analogous to the self-contained, quasi-autonomous division of a corporate body. The process known as ‘agencification’ has been the  cornerstone of public service reforms around the world.
In the UK this process began in the late 1980s and agencies began to be carved out of government departments to carry out specific executive functions within a mandate, and a framework of policy and resources provided by the relevant minister. Each agency was headed by a chief executive with considerable operating freedom, subject, however, to the mandate, and the policy and resources framework. By the mid-1990s, about two-thirds of the chief executives of these agencies were recruited on the basis of open competition, and over a half of these were from outside the civil service.By 2002, 75% of the civil servants were working in 127 executive agencies as the employees of the agencies.Most CEOs were given term contracts and each CEO was personally responsible for the targeted performances. Performance-linked pay was introduced.

‘Agencification’ has been a success in Britain and elsewhere. Running costs of the government as a share of public spending declined in Britain by 10% between 1992-95. A review report also concluded that the agency model has led to clarity and focus on specified tasks; a culture of service delivery; empowerment of frontline staff; greater accountability and openness; contextually appropriate structures and systems compared to the earlier standardized, monolithic government system; innovative thinking and action; development of brand for the services offered; better risk management; and greater tendency to expose problems rather than keeping them hidden.
In Australia all line departments operate in the agency mode.
In Sweden approximately 99% of civil servants work in agencies and the rest 1% are attached to ministries.

In India, while some agencies are structured as Departments of Government, some have statutory backing and others or registered as a company, cooperative, trust or a society. For example, in India, the Railways is organized as a departmental agency undertaking, scientific establishments are structured under autonomous organizations like the CSIR,  space commission etc while a large number of units working on commercial lines are organized as companies (Public Sector Undertakings).

Mere creation of executive agencies is not an end in itself. What is equally important is to ensure that the right balance between autonomy and accountability is struck while designing the institutional framework of the agency, which, in turn, would be determined by the nature of activity/functions entrusted to it. This could be achieved through well designed performance agreements, Memorandum of understanding (MOU), contracts 
etc. However, preparing and enforcing such performance contracts requires considerable upgradation of capacity in the concerned government departments. 

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