Published:  01:10 AM, 06 July 2019

How do citizens influence public policy?


We usually view policy as designating behavior of some actor or set of actors, such as an official, or government agency, or legislator, an area of activity such as public enterprise or poverty reduction.

Public policy also may be seen as whatever a government chooses to do or not to do. Such definition may be sufficient for ordinary discourse, but definitely inadequate for a systematic analysis of public policy, hence a more precise definition is needed to structure our thinking and to facilitate effective communication with one another.

Public policy is the broad term refers to the policy that is formulated and implemented for the benefit of the public. Public policy can be described in the overall framework within which the actions of the government are undertaken to achieve its goals.

It is a purposive and consistent course of action devised in response to perceive the problem of a constituency, formulated by a specific political process and adopted implemented and enforced by public agencies. Public policy is made by public authorities like politicians, members of parliament, judiciaries, bureaucrats, civil societies etc.

It consists of patterns of actions taken over time and situation. Public policy is a product of demand, a government-directed course of action in response to pressure about some perceived problem.

It can be positive as the deliberate purpose of the action or negative as deliberately decided not to take action. Though some Policy Science Scientist defines it in a different way in a broad sense, it is very difficult to precisely define. According to Dye, the policy is that "whatever governments choose to do or not to do." According to Eyestone, Policy is the "relationship of the governmental unit to its environment with the actions, objectives, and pronouncements of governments on particular matters.

The steps they take or fail to take, to implement them and the explanations they give for what happens or does not happen". According to Birkland. "Public policy includes the process of making choices and the outcomes or actions of particular decisions and response to a perceived problem". In 1930s social scientists claimed that if the government wanted to deal with problems of the day, it had to recognize the need for more informed theoretically approach to governing.

In democracies, citizens are accorded an opportunity to influence public policy through active participation in the public decision-making process. It is important to involve citizens in public decisions to ensure consensus and successful implementation of the decisions. As a citizen of developing country Bangladesh, politician and empowered citizen should know about public policy.

Since public policies have a direct impact on the citizens, it is rational to facilitate their participation. Citizens can participate in developing and influencing public policy by 1. Lobbying their representatives to support or reject policies that are deemed destructive or oppressive.

2. Polling or participating in elections or referendums aimed at instituting, changing, or withdrawing certain aspects of public policy. 3. Holding peaceful demonstrations, protest marches, or picketing to express their displeasure at proposals deemed detrimental to the public.

4. Participating in local public meetings with the aim of exchanging ideas to inform appropriate decision making. A citizen can justify input, output, and outcomes of the public policies. The role of citizens in creating public policy varies depending on the system of government, the nature of the citizens, and the type of policy. In direct democracies, citizens are expected to vote on all major areas of public policy. In republics, in theory, they elect representatives who vote for them on policy, but in more autocratic regimes, people may have little say on policy.

All of these systems of government have existed in the globe, and all seem to function reasonably well.Political and social scientists have developed many theories, models, and approaches for analyzing policy-making. The theoretical approaches include process theory, rational choice theory, elite theory, group theory, political systems theory, institutionalism theory, policy output analysis theory, incremental theory, kingdom garbage can theory, game theory and rational-choice theory which are primarily concerned with public policy-making as a process.

Public policies as having to find out pragmatic root causes regarding the perceived problem and to provide a solution and assessing the impact of these solutions and effectiveness.

1. Effectiveness of public policies: Public policy is based on the principles of economics, sociology, law, politics, science and other established academic disciplines. So, public policy maker, analysts have a vast knowledge on the means on how policy is made, the forces that affect it, and the ways on how policy can get better and become more effective to the public concerning the issue. 2. Provide guidelines: Public policies essentially capture the intentions of the government.

Without a policy, there can be no governance. To govern, there must have a set of guidelines, and policies provide those guidelines. 3. Involve public affairs: To be a proud citizen of developing Bangladesh one must actively be involved in public affairs is our responsibility and opportunity to voice out our concerns. Because it is us who can be affected by everything that's happening in the long run. 4. Contribution as a taxpayer: As a citizen and taxpayers, we have a say in every part of government spending.

They may be the one making choice and public policies. But we can do our share by knowing and studying our responsibilities as citizens and as taxpayers who are always in need of effective public services. 5. Buildup character: Public policy also focuses on learning how to build characters well and how to become effective citizens as well as build up dutiful inhabitants. 6. Evaluation of public policy: Citizen can identifying the important societal problem.

That presumably required government action in order to effectively addressed, formulating solutions to those problems and assessing the impact of those solutions on the target problem. Moreover, policy evaluation ensures the justification of governmental regulatory body's effectiveness. It influences out socio-economic and cultural development. Finally, it contributes to up-grading living standard and created job opportunities in the country's economy.

7. Evaluation of governmental effectiveness: Recently, the public policy focuses on the description, analysis, and explanation of causes and consequences of government activity. As a citizen of democratic states an evaluator point of views we have to evaluate public policy for the justification of governmental regulatory body's effectiveness.

8. Changes scenario of the solution of problems: Earlier in Bangladesh, citizen assumed that the legislature passed a law and allocated money to solve the problems and achieved the designed goals. They believed that governments could achieve such goals as the elimination of poverty and the prevention of crime through the adoption of right policies.

But now changed the above scenarios achieving goals or meet up the perceived problems. That is why the government has to adjust its approach regarding public policy.

9. Think about alternatives: It is very clear; some societal problems could not be mitigated by imposing laws, orders, regulation, and administrative circulars only. So, the government has to think alternatives that are their political activities and administrative methodology.

About a decade ago, Bangladeshi policy makers such as bureaucrats, legislatures, executives, judiciary as well as media and civil society often do not follow the policy scientist's models during the formulation of their policy. As a result, the action and effectiveness of these policies made a contradiction to its reflection.

Recently public policies of Bangladesh played a vital role with great result. In the recent time, public policy of Bangladesh is not random for purposive and goal oriented, when a problem arises and create an abnormal situation or occur any incident related to public functions like road traffic, abolishing of quota systems, increasing bad investment by the state-owned banks, public sick industry and WB Padma bridge funding crisis etc. In those circumstances, the government quickly and efficiently solves or meets up that by the implementation of public policy knowledge.

The most recently formulated public policies are playing an important role in causing and solving the problems in public sphere like Construction of Padma Multi-purpose Bridge, Establishing metro rail service around capital city in Dhaka, recent investment in people to preserve citizen's welfare i.e health care, nutrition, housing, education, cultural development, and poverty elevation, etc.

Recently the government formulated a policy regarding the reduction of fuel price levels like octane, petrol, diesel, and kerosene at the rate of taka 3-10 as per the demand of the people as well as pressure groups and elite groups. But it is appreciable that the government honored the public sentiment and opinion through the formulation of the public policy.

At present, many countries of the world follow the various models of policy sciences for the formulation of their own policies, in many cases. Bangladesh is considered as a newly developing country and aiming to leave least developed country's status by 2024. Present socio-economic development is going to be highly achieved. This country already role model in various sectors around the globe.

The new role of the model of democracy is practicing in our country like Malaysia, Singapore, China, Thailand, India, USA, and Canada, etc. Bangladesh is also a role model in the field of public policy making and implementation among the countries of the world. Bangladesh has already achieved a lot of SDGs goals in every sector of its development through effective public policy implementation.

But a number of factors strongly affect the public policy formulation and implementation process factors such as the assistance and extent of pressure and persuasion from international development partners, and the capacity to mobilize and manage resources.

The political commitment at the highest level is sometimes found to be the most critical determinant element of policy formulation and implementation in Bangladesh. So, It is the prime time for decision-makers, to contribute to ensuring good governance in Bangladesh.

The citizen, civil society actors from a wide range of fields, come together to collaborate with government, politician and business leaders to finding and advocating for solutions on trans-national (Tista) disputes, Rohingya refugee repatriation crisis as well as recent global governance challenges.


The writer is Researcher; Faculty of Social Science, University of Dhaka and working as Evaluation and Documentation Officer, Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM). He can be reach at: bibmevaluation@bibm.org.bd

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