Political leadership, while in state power, is both the formulator and decision-maker of public policy, but, in reality, experienced experts initiate public policy, and bureaucrats implement that policy with the approval of the political leadership. In reality, public policy formulators and experts must have insightful and dissecting minds to take note of the intention of the political leadership
Policy is a strategic process to transform the socio-economic status of a country. It is also a heuristic procedure. Hence, people focus on its formulation and implementation.
Webster dictionary defines policy as "a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions".
When we think of public policy, it is related with the actions of a state and substate authorities and institutions.
In general, public policy underpins the appropriate use of prudence or wisdom in the management of public affairs.
True, the formulation of public policy is both a challenge and an opportunity as well to use one's talent in the service of the public good.
Myriad concepts have emerged regarding the track that could be more applicable and beneficial to the existing socio-economic environment. Both the developed West and the developing countries have developed their own concepts, keeping in mind the socio-economic and technological status existing in their surroundings.
Some U.S. experts have conceived the process of design thinking (DT) with their insight into the complex and competitive socio-economic fabric. It owes its origin to Herbert Simon, the author of "The Sciences of the Artificial" and the Nobel Laureate of 1969, who first made connection between a way of thinking and design.
According to some experts, design thinking comprises five elements: (i) Empathising (ii) Defining (iii) Ideating (iv) Prototyping and (v) Testing solutions.
These five elements figure in the effort to search for methods and techniques in applying ideas and introducing programmes to tackle policy concerns relevant to a problem.
Similarly, Elon Musk, a U.S. freewheeling genius, attributes his problem solving success to "first principles thinking" (FPT), which was first articulated by the ancient Greek sage, Aristotle.
According to Musk, the FPT approach to thinking "is where you boil things down to the most fundamental truths in a particular area and then reason up from there".
However, it is not sure how we can apply the above thinking processes for problem solving policy formulation in the existing socio-economic and technological atmospherics in Nepal. The structural environment elsewhere indeed differs from Nepal's, with their highly sophisticated one.
But we can at least infer some learning from those concepts in our quest to formulate an applicable public policy process and shape its arrangement.
An Asian policy formulation expert, Hai Do, reckons, "The dominant model of policy formulation in developing countries is the bureaucratic politics amongst the interrupted equilibrium organisational process, and rational actor."
This observation may be true in Nepal's case.
But he seems to have foregone the dominant role played by the political leadership in developing countries like Nepal.
Naturally, we have to ponder over the quest for formulating public policy that is compatible to our own perspective, as our socio-economic and technological status lags behind.
The country and its landscape are very diverse in terms of geographical environment, ranging from the high Himalayan mountains and hills to the flatland with numerous valleys, gorges and wild running rivers and rivulets.
The social fabric is also numerically diverse, with 125 ethnic and sub-ethnic groups that speak 126 languages and dialects across the entire country.
Already, 14 periodic development plans have been completed in Nepal, but, unfortunately, hardly any with satisfying outcomes for the benefit of its people who now number 30 million.
Nepal opened up to the external world seven decades ago, with frequent political changes occurring.
We have also been witnessing incessant quarrels between political antagonists in the past three decades.
They seem to lurk aside despite the valued trust reposed on them by the people when exercising their voting powers.
It is now felt that there is a pressing need to distinctly separate political leadership from administrative leadership, with a strongly built-in bureaucratic machinery, with responsibility and accountability put in place for outcome-oriented implementation of public policy.
Additionally, they need to be tasked to implement equitable and inclusive growth, considering each segment of the Nepali society and every region of the country.
In saying, political leadership, while in state power, is both the formulator and decision-maker of public policy, but, in truth, experienced experts initiate public policy, and bureaucrats implement that policy with the approval of the political leadership.
In reality, public policy formulators and experts must have insightful and dissecting minds to take note of the intention of the political leadership.
Meanwhile, they are required to formulate strong public policy, by taking into consideration public opinion, economic and social conditions, technological transformation, interest groups, business associations, lobbying groups as well as non-governmental organisations. Failing which, any public policy formulation is most likely to detract.
Together, public policy formulation calls for the presentation of applicable policy design, policy tools, policy actors, policy community classification and policy network for its unambiguous understanding, indicating its implementation process as well.
Of course, public policy formulation is carefully watched by the stakeholders of every shade and spectrum.
So then, it should be people-centric, transparent and more digitalised, leading towards paperless transactions to get along with the recent requirements.
Necessarily, formulators need to go for all embracing ideas to the maximal.
A version of this article appears in the print on April 19, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.