|Announcing The Public Policy Primer
|by Sourav Roy
Singapore, December 3, 2010 -- When Peter Ho, the former head of Singapore’s civil services and a senior advisor to the Centre for Strategic Futures says,’this is a must-read book for public managers and policy makers of the region’, there’s a ruffle in the room and everybody listens.
Speaking at the launch of The Public Policy Primer: Managing the Policy Process, written by school faculty members, Wu Xun, M.Ramesh, Scott A. Fritzen and Michael Howlett, Ho remarked, yesterday, that the days of ‘government knows best’ are over and modern day governance is all about an educated and aware citizenry working in tandem with empowered civil servants.
“And it is this fine synchronicity that the book addresses meticulously, thereby suggesting methods of effective policy formation and implementation,” said Ho.
Every Singaporean civil servant is told ‘policy is implementation’ and ‘implementation is policy’ but the need to emphasize that policy and implementation are, in fact, a part of a single value chain of good governance is extremely pivotal. The authors of the book have taken that into account brilliantly, said Ho.
The Public Policy Primer provides an invaluable insight into the world of policy cycles, taking the readers through various stages of agenda setting, policy formulation, decision-making, policy implementation and finally, policy evaluation.
Dean Kishore Mahbubani stressed on the timely importance of the book saying governments around the world are striving to strike a rich balance between the visible hand of the government and the invisible hand of free markets. This book shall offer career civil servants and practitioners of public policy an innovative way of addressing future scenarios, added Dean Mahbubani.
Mahbubani, Fritzen, Ho and Xun at the book launch.
One often finds bureaucrats being blamed for stalled processes and systemic failure of policies. However, it is hard to imagine the challenges and complexities that career civil servants face.
Civil servants who assume managerial positions at various levels of public sector organisations play an integral part in designing and implementing public policies. They, however, find themselves shouldering a disproportionately larger share of public scrutiny for failures in public sector governance.
They are often branded as the ‘bureaucracy’, blamed for incompetence, thought of resisting change and accused of poor policy formulation and weak implementation of initiatives. The flak flies from everywhere.
Added to that are typical models of public administrations that thrive on ‘politics-administration’ dichotomy, advocating a strong separation between administration and politics, and policy-making agencies from implementation agencies.
However, the authors of the book elucidate how recent developments have reinforced the need to expand the role played by public managers and how decentralization and devolution have transferred critical policy roles to managers at lower levels of governments.
Fritzen and Xun, authors of the book.
The authors also point to the emergence of a network or collaborative government practices which are built on participatory and consultative processes. Government authority is, therefore, no longer solely top-down, instead, a parallel, bottom-up process in which public managers play a larger, more continuing role.
Customer orientation in the public sector governance, adopted widely across governments, has also strengthened the hand of the public managers who oversee the crucial delivery processes.
The Public Policy Primer revolves around an optimistic yet very realistic stand that career civil servants, Informed by a better understanding of policy processes, can overcome many of the hindrances that undermine their potential for contributing to the policy process, and eventually, policy success.
The Public Policy Primer: Managing the Policy Process has been published by Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group and is available from www.routledge.com.