All Governments around the globe are facing multitudes of problems as well as good things. And for bad things are mostly noticed through political matters, economic status, social, environmental factors, cultural as well as religious differences for example the instability in Syria, water flooding in Japan last month. Decisions to handle such difficulties are either reactive or proactive in nature based on the problem. So Governments and other actors play a major role to eliminate those problems by using a unique and strong mechanism, which is called a policy (De Bruijn & ten Heuvelhof 2008). A word policy derives from a French word policie or Latin word politia which means civil administration (Young 2013). And this paper is going to demonstrate what public policy is all about within a global system.
Firstly, the paper will establish a tool that has been used by many Governments in all aspects of life whether economic, political, culture and environmental matters. Policy is one of the multifaceted concepts and there is no any agreed universal definition, so in its simplest it refers to a pathway to pursuit the desired goals within a precise setting based on decisions made whether by institution or an individuals. Policy acts as a focal point to Governments when developing guidelines, procedures, standards even regulations to be used when addressing problems in the societies and issues that are of public concern for example the Malawi National HIV Policy of 2003 and the Bush Doctrine of 2002 (Pal 2005).
Secondly, this subsection aims at showing what a public policy is all about. The notion of public policy came to be realized in the contemporary policy studies after the World War II in 1950s and 1960s (Heinemann et al 1997). Due to the convolution there are many definitions by different scholars based on their views and interpretations. Lasswell (1958) stated that public policy refers to “who gets what, when, and how”. Dean Kilpatrick from his book Definitions Of Public Policy and the Law, defines Public Policy as ” a system of laws, regulatory measures, courses of action, and funding priorities concerning a given topic promulgated by a governmental entity or its representatives”. Dye (1972) defines public policy as “what government chooses to do or not to do”.
Additionally, public policy can be divided into four categories. Distributive policy which aims at providing decisions that benefited a segment of a society inorder to uplift living status of people for example the farm input subsidy in Malawi context. Redistributive policy is also used by many governments when they are trying to change the allocation of public goods and services, and in this policy there is a winner and a loser, an example in Malawi context is when Bingu Wa Mutharika said the national stadium was supposed to be constructed in Blantyre instead of Lilongwe (Ripley & Franklin 1984). Regulatory policy which is a regulation mostly used to protect the society in special activities for example prohibiting the emission of toxic gases into atmosphere and installation of speed limits to reduce car speeds. Lastly, Substantive policy is a regulation that is used for the benefit of the whole society whether development or welfare for example the provision of health services, education and society security (Lowi 1972).
Fourthly, this paragraph is going to present a valid link that is mostly realized between the political elites and public policy based on the clarification of three models below. The political system model basically pointed at the power of political elites when they are presenting their authoritative decisions through identified government institutions to take the duty especially in developing countries with an aim to achieve an output which is a policy (Easton 1965). Second model the pluralism tries to show the link between power of politician and public policy. The model emphasizes that, the presence of battle from different groups influence the public policy whereby the political elites have an upper hand as compared to other groups for example the passing of Malawi land bill Act in 2017 by the parliament without considering views from other groups (Schattschneider 19960). Another link is observed by the Elite model which has a view that public policy is the only way the preferences and values of the political elites are accomplished. And it has been noted that when public policies are made, the elites do influence much by putting their priorities through government officials first while those that are not political elites come second.
Furthermore, public policy making process is also discussed in this paper. Policy making encompasses all the stages which are applied to handle those problems at hand within a society at rapid pace or slow. For example, to have a solution on why there is high rate of school dropout along lake shore areas in Malawi. The primary phase is to know the problems which the government and other stakeholders need promptly action compared to other problems, either the root cause of that problem (Dewey 1927). Policy agenda is the next step whereby decisions or possible solutions are made by policy makers to act quickly to the problem or waiting, for example United States of America government send 3000 troops to help the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa (Hoppe 1970). Policy formulation another useful stage which involves all the relevant and straight planned of action to be done for dealing with the problem at hand, even though it is not always based on this three points: problem proposal should be technically sound, budgets should be reasonable and the proposal might have the acceptance power from executive, legislation and judiciary, that’s where bargaining and compromise is used often (Anderson 2003).
Policy adoption being another stage involves all the activities or action done by public officials to accept, transform, or discard preferred policy alternatives, and all the accepted procedures and functions done are legally authorized. Policy Budgeting is also one of the factors to consider during the making of public policy. It has been realized that once the budget is not huge or is within the range that policy will be accepted at fast rapidity but once the budget is huge it cripples the whole process. Implementation stage of the policy process comes after a bill becomes law, and applied to the targeted population inorder to achieve the intended goals through government agencies and officials (Ripley ; Franklin 1986). Lastly, evaluation which looks more differently as compared to other stages in the sense that instead of looking at future goals it tries to scrutinize back and see how other stages have done. Evaluation focuses on all the estimates done during budgeting, assessments, policy content, policy appraisals, how policy implemented as well as to see if a projected goal has been achieved (Cochran ; Malone 1992).
In summary public policy is a keystone that guides all the activities done by government and all other interested parties who are called the authorities in political system when there is need to act on a particular thing whether in promptly or gradually manner (Easton 1953). The assertion has also shown the power of political geniuses during the whole policy making process. Therefore in a nutshell public policy is a decision made by the government after an activity has been made in order to achieve a proposed goal or objectives by creating a smooth link with citizens and basically this is done by political maestros.