Policy analysis improves our knowledge about society. Policy analysis includes analysis which takes place before a decision or analysis which takes place after assess or evaluate a policy. Quade is considered the pioneer of policy analytical approach. Policy analysis is mainly shaped by a methodological framework derived from the empiricist methods that dominated the social sciences of the day. It has an influence of economics and its positivist scientific methodologies on the development of this field.
Policy analysis is an applied subfield whose contents cannot be determined by disciplinary boundaries but by whatever appears appropriate to the circumstances of the time and the nature of the problem.wildavasky
Questions of policy ultimately rest on the application of knowledge to political decisions. Such knowledge can be obtained both within and outside the government agencies. Policy analysis is a technique to measure organizational effectiveness through the examination and evaluation of the effect of a program. It encourages policy-makers to examine policy issues and decisions with scientific tools. It is used for
a. For problem assessment and monitoring
b. As a ‘before the fact’ decision tool and
c. For evaluation
Thomas R Dye labels public analysis as the “thinking man’s response” to demands. It has a primary concern on policy explanation rather than prescription. Policy analysis concerns the causes and consequences of public policies. Its purpose is two-fold.
- likely consequences of proposed policies and
- The actual consequences of the policy already adopted
There are various methods to achieve these two purposes. Principal methodologies are
- Systems analysis and simulation
- Cost-benefit analysis
- New approaches to budgeting
- Policy experimentation and
- Policy evaluation
Policy analysis is developing increased precision in its methods, but at the same time, it recognizes the fact that simple methods may be all that is necessary for numerous policy problems. Providing counselling to the people in civil cases is a good example to illustrate this point. Policy analysts help decision-makers and citizens develop alternatives that apt to their own needs and interests, rather than those framed by others. It promotes participatory democracy. By furnishing citizens with the available information through policy analysis can bring greater citizen involvement.
Policy analysts include individuals and groups like independent research institutions, interest groups, political parties. Analysts focus on different stages of the policy process, such as policy formulation, implementation or evaluation.
Process of policy analysis
Policy analysis is considered to be a rationality model. In this model, decision-makers have to follow steps that are parallel to the requirements of scientific research. Patton and Sawicki proposed a six-step process for the policy analysis
- Verify, define and detail the problem
- Establish alternative policies
- Identity alternative policies
- Evaluate alternative policies
- Display and distinguish among alternative policies and
- Monitor the implemented policy
It is an approach in which policy analyst seeks to translate political and social issues into technically defined ends to be pursued through administrative ends.
Types of policy analysis
Ex-ante analysis and Ex-post analysis: when a policy analysis takes place before a decision is made, we call it as “Ex ante analysis”. it is Ex-post analysis when it takes place after to assess or evaluate policy. They are also called as prospective and retrospective policy analyses.
Scientific and pragmatic approaches analysis: Some political scientists like Stokey and Zeckhauser would take a purely scientific and positivist view as to what policy analysis is done. On the other side, some argue that there is a need to analyze a realistic approach which accepts the limitations of rationality.
Prescriptive and descriptive policy analysis: The prescriptive analysis recommends actions that result in a particular outcome. While descriptive analysis refers to the historical analysis of past policies. So it has to do after policy implementation.
Policy analysis framework would identify both the kinds of information used to define policy and also the analytic processes.
Inputs indicate needs and demands. Needs are the conditions that ask for action. Demands are expressed as desires concerning the services sought, whether they are needed or not. Process related to the functions and role of forces. Outputs in terms of laws and policies. And the output of the service-related programmes is described in terms of the use of those services. Outcomes identify the results of particular courses of action. They are the responses of the services expressed in terms of well-being and satisfaction attained as a result. For example in the context of motor vehicle amendment act, 2019, the inputs comprise accident rate, deaths on roads etc… On the process linkage, it is concerned with service delivery to meet the needs and demands of people. The proposed vehicle amendment policy is the output in this case. Some states agreed to this policy as it is and some protested and amended further are the outcomes.
Policy decision-making in the modern polity is a complex exercise. Decision-making in the real world, mostly, an unpredictable thing. The role of analysis is to facilitate a rational choice of means and ends. The purpose of a rational policy-making approach consists of five key steps:
- Identification of objectives
- Specification of alternatives
- Recommending policy action
- Monitoring policy outcomes
- Evaluating policy performance
Criticism of rational policy analysis
It is uncertain whether policy analysis can find solutions to the problems regarding the future of society. The society’s ills are so complex that analysts are incapable of predicting the impact of proposed policies. In practice, the idea of policy analysis has been criticized for undermining democratic society. Heineman says that analysis may be strong in diagnosing the problems and formulation of policy, but it is weak in terms of how a policy should be implemented. The analysis is of no use if the essential points cannot be easily communicated to others. It cannot be value-free research. But remember, Reason, knowledge and scientific analysis are always better than the absence of any knowledge.
Policy analysis rests on the assumption that information is better than no information, and that right questions are better than no questions asked, even when the answers may not be definitive.” –Robert Lineberry