To Improve Policy Effectiveness
By Sruti Bandyopadhyay , 02 Mar 2010

Voters elect governments to solve social problems. Governments design and implement a huge array of programs and allocate huge sum of money every year to ensure the public good s. A sizable literature has developed suggesting that problems in program implementation are a major source of poor government performance, ranging from inadequate coordination between agencies and levels of government to front-line workers who disagree with the program and implement it with less than total enthusiasm.

But do you think, the improved policy effectiveness can be brought in by setting-up of an “Independent Evaluation Office to undertake impartial and objective assessments of the various public programmes and improve the effectiveness of the public interventions”. This year’s budget speech mentions, “It has been decided that it would be an independent entity under a Governing board chaired by the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission. The IEO would evaluate the impact of flagship programmes and place the findings in the public domain. It would be funded by the Planning Commission.”
Surprisingly there has been no mention to the final step of the implementation chain: explanations of why the state or block level officials do or do not “comply” with these policy objective – meaning that why don’t they behave in ways that are consistent with the objectives of the policy.

Program “officials” frequently fail to act in the way that program designers intended and wanted, even when it appears to be in their self-interest to do so. Contrary to common perception, the single biggest crisis facing the state officials is not corruption, it is lack of capacity. This is true at virtually all levels of government. The officials do not often even have the full statistical base in some of the most vital areas of our well being, from health to urban economies, to be able to make intelligent interventions.

The regulatory demands of the modern economy and the challenges of governance require substantial planning and expenditure towards capacity building at the state and subsequently at the ULB and Panchayat level. It is critical to listen to both what they say and what they do. Every department should be allocated a stipulated some of money to map the challenges faced by each department and then they should make that shortcomings public. This resource mapping will help the government to learn quickly what mistakes of omission or commission (or both) policymakers have made and help in correcting those mistakes.

For any government interested in thinking seriously about effective implementation should begin the conversion by ensuring state’s capability to do all that is expected of it.

Sruti Bandyopadhyay is a Researcher at Accountability Initiative