Is Policymaking related to our lives?
Decoding Public Policy with Sakshi Parihar
- What is public policy or policymaking?
Let’s start with policy: When you are in school, the teacher tells you that you need to have 80% minimum class attendance to give the final exam. Thus, the minimum 80% attendance is a policy. When you grow older and get a job, every institution has a leave policy – 12 days casual, 30 days annual, and so on. However when policymaking occurs at the public level, then it impacts not just individuals but the entire society. For example, according to the reservation policy in India, 50% of seats in educational institutions and government jobs are reserved for people from specific communities. Thus, public policy means policies that are designed by the Government to be implemented by institutions and individuals to ensure their welfare and attain socio-economic objectives.
- How does it affect an individual’s, life government, and private sector?
Public policy is all-encompassing and omnipresent. To go with the above example, during covid times, the attendance criteria for many educational institutions were relaxed. This was done because for many students it was not possible initially to get access to a laptop or a smartphone and an internet connection. Even when they did get the connection, it was weak and unable to sustain video calls for multiple hours on a daily. If a family member suffered from covid, then the day-to-day life of all members was affected. Thus, this relaxation in attendance policy helped students sustain their education through this difficult period.
- How does a policy get formulated?
A policy is formulated based on ideas put forth by bureaucrats or due to changes in external circumstances. Policy is ever-evolving and not static. The Companies Act, 2013; regulations issued by SEBI, and continuous updation thereof ensure that processes, frameworks, and monitoring mechanisms are in place to uphold corporate governance in alignment with global standards.
- What are the challenges faced in the process of policy formulation?
The first is that the people who are driving policy formulation may not have technical expertise in the subject matter or have other constraints. Hence, it is sometimes difficult to understand the intent and nuances of the policymaker. Second, the policy may not be designed keeping in mind the constraints and ultimate needs of stakeholders. Sometimes, the design is good, but the implementation is either haphazard or not done at all and hence the policy remains just on paper. Third, there is usually a trade-off in policy making. For example – Subsidies to farmers for electricity may be good from a rural development perspective, but some may argue it creates incentives to misuse electricity and is not fiscally prudent in the long run.
- Emerging markets such as India are now shifting the focus to evidence-based policymaking what are your views regarding this?
Evidence-based policymaking addresses the two issues raised above. If before implementing the policy, the policymaker has access to data, conducts RCTs, and analyses which of the different options could be implemented in the right manner with maximum impact, then more policies could be implemented correctly.
- If we want to make this research exercise more impactful for the people what would be your recommendations to the government?
I do not want to recommend anything to the government 😉 but I think there are a few things that can help. First and foremost is, hiring. Earlier, government organizations were reluctant to hire technical experts but these days that scenario is changing and the Government is actively looking for consultants and even lateral entry at higher levels. Second, is the training of existing officers because consultants may come and go, but the Government officers will always be present and have a positive influence on long-term policymaking. Thirdly, using evidence-based policymaking. Many times, policy decisions are taken hastily and hence the whole exercise of research may seem time-consuming and redundant, but should not be sidestepped.
- The last question is, who can explore this area as a part of their career?
The answer is everyone. Talking specifically about the Harris School of Public Policy, we have a very different approach to public policy. We believe that engineers, doctors, lawyers, artists, people working in the corporate sector, people working in the government, people working in the non-government organizations, as well as people working in the performing arts can all be a part of it. Public policy is not optional. You may choose to be unaware, you may choose to be not a part of it but when it affects you, everything else will fade in comparison. Any policy decision that is taken impacts you directly or indirectly, and therefore it is always advisable to be part of the policy-making process so that you can eventually nudge policy in the right direction.
*The views/opinions expressed in the above article exclusively belong to the writer. Tatvita may have different opinions on the subject.*
About the Expert
Sakshi is a central banker turned international educator. Her educational journey spans science, business, and the liberal arts; and her professional journey is across Government, private, and international organizations. This unique combination makes it easy for her to connect with a diverse audience and create long-lasting synergy for the multiple stakeholders she works with across Asia, Europe, Oceania & Canada. She is currently Assistant Director of Programs, International Partnerships & Executive Education at the Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago.