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Mzuzu University
Bachelor of Arts in security Studies
Course Title : Public Policy
Course Code : SSPP 4704
Submitted to : Mr. George Abel MhangoSubmitted by : BSS/37/17
Assignment Number : 1
Task : What is a Public Policy?
Due Date : Friday, 16th November, 2018
There is no universally accepted definition of public policy in the contemporary world. Due to diversity of the definitions, various scholars have different views on public policy (Rose 1976). Public policy as a concept can be understood as ” a set of interrelated decisions taken by a political actor or group of actors concerning the selection of goals and means of achieving them within a specified condition where those decisions should in principle be within the power of these actors to achieve” (Jenkins 1978). According to Patel and Svasand (2007), Public policies are guided by the “set of rules, norms, and practices embodied in a country’s political system”. These decisions which are formulated and implemented in the form of laws, regulations, executive orders, court decisions as well as Government budget are called public policy (ibid). According to Chinsinga cited in Patel and Svasand (2007, p.354) posits that “public policy has to be proposed, legislated, and implemented”. This coupled understanding suggests that public policies-be of economic, cultural, environmental, political or social should be viewed as complex processes. Therefore, this paper seeks to discuss the meaning of public policy with different definitions by different scholars.

According to Anderson cited in Kraft and Furlong (2015, P.4) elaborate that a Policy refers to “a purposive course of action that an individual or group consistently follow in dealing with a problem”. In this regards, policy comes from those actors in government who have legitimate authority to enforce normative guidelines for action (Hill & Hupe 2002). In other words, “it is anything a government chooses to do or not to do”. In this respect, government is the primary actor in public policy formulation and implementation. In most cases, government formulates public policies in order to address a public outcry or concern; hence government is an agent of public policy decision- making (Anderson 2015). In this regards, Public policy is the sum of government activities, whether be very successful directly or through agents as it has an influence on the livelihood of people as it consists of political decisions for implementing program to achieve societal goals (Cochran and Malone 1995). For instance, during one party era, parents and guardians used to pay school fees for their primary children and those that could not afford; their children were denied a chance to go to school. Therefore, the introduction of Free Primary Education as a policy by the United Democratic Front (UDF) regime claimed that enrolment rates increased to the point that the pupil-teacher ratio was very huge. This situation did not only force government to recruit more primary school teachers but also formulate another public policy that led to the conversion of the Malawi College of Distance Education (MCDE) Centres to Community Day Secondary Schools(CDSS) as more primary students were selected to secondary schools (ibid). It should be therefore noted that “complexity of public policy environment in the country can be drawn from the fact that policy making process is a very repetitive and cyclic process” with neither having a clear beginning nor an end (Patel and Svasand, 2007, p. 354)
However, according to Hogwood and Gunn cited in Anderson (2003) indicate that the nature of public policy takes various approaches as highlighted below;
“Public Policy in its constructive form is based on law and authority” (Anderson 2003). For instance, President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika had issued a ban on the export of maize thereby ordering the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) to guard all the borders and unchartered routes that leads to our neighbouring countries and later, the implementation of the policy was lifted on 30th October, 2017 (Phiri 2017). The policy had indeed helped the Malawi government in protecting maize from unscrupulous traders in maintaining food basket as a result; maize was no longer a scarce commodity in the country.

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“Public Policy can on the other hand be understood as the outcome of the government action” This is in terms of what is actually achieved. In fact, the Government through the elected officials such as ministers have the right to articulate policies while non-elected officials are the ones that carry out the policy through programs (Hill, 2009). In other words, “this is the impact of the activities in which the delivery versus impact different is very essential in determining the goal of public policy (Anderson 2003). This implies that the understanding of government authorities and involvement of stakeholders in policy formulation play a major role in addressing a concern (ibid), for instance, goods and services delivery to the citizens; such as education, communication and transportation, agriculture, health to mention but a few. These play a pivotal role in addressing the concerns of the people. The government re-introduced Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) from 2005 up to date as one way of dealing with hunger by targeting the poor farmers to have access to cheap farm inputs such as fertilizer and seeds of different crops.

Dye (2012, p. 6) points out that “public policy is anything a government chooses to do or not to do”. The explanation above is quite naive in the sense that it provides no guidelines to separate the government activities that are less significant. Despite being simple, it clearly specifies the fact that the government is an agent of public policy making (Anderson 2015). In this perspective, a policy constitutes only those measures that are endorsed by government. In addition, it emphasizes the fact that public policies involve the governments’ fundamental choice to do something or to do nothing. For instance, in the current Malawian set up, same sex marriages are illegal hence if the same is presented in parliament and the majority votes against it, this would mean that the decision is reinforcing the current position which is a policy as inaction. In this case, public policy refers to a governments’ choice to undertake some course of action or simply to ‘do nothing or to maintain the position (Cochran & Malone 2014).
In conclusion, the inception of democracy in Malawi brought in a new wave of change to the political system, parliament, civil society organizations, and members of the public that can influence the public policy making process. As above explanations, public policy can be summarized as the consistent goal oriented decisions made by the government in dealing with problems of public concern. It has been also established that the nature of public policy takes diverse forms which make authors to define it subjectively. Significantly, the essay has demonstrated that most explanations regarding the public policy point out to the government as the primary actor in policy formulation and implementation. It has shown that the government formulates public policy in order to solve a public problem. However, political interference still poses a challenge to the public policy-making in Malawi since policy is a political process as it requires the allocation or distribution of resources for the formulation and implementation of the policies

Cochran, C L & Malone, E F 2014. Public Policy: Perspectives and Choices, 5th Ed. USA: Lynne Rienner Publishers:
Dye, TR 2012. Understanding Public Policy, Harlow: Pearson Longman
Hill, M 2009 .The Public Policy Process, Harlow: Longman
Hogwood, BW & Gunn L 1984. Policy Analysis for the Real World. Oxford:Oxford University Press
Jenkins, W I 1978. Policy Analysis: A Political and Organizational Perspective.London: Martin Robertson.

Kraft, M E & Furlong, S R 2015. Public Policy: Politics, Analysis and Alternatives, 5th Ed. Washington DC: Sage Publication Ltd.

Patel, N & Svasand, L (Eds) 2007. Government and Politics in Malawi, Zomba: Kachere Series
Phiri, M. 2017. Mutharika lift ban on Malawi maize exports after ADMARC visit, Nyasatimes 30th October, 2017. Available at: Accessed on 9 November 2018.

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