Policy formulation tool use in emerging policy spheres: a developing country perspective

Sachin Warghade


In many ways, policymaking in developing countries is known to be different from that in developed countries (Pye 1958; Hirschman 1975; Horowitz 1989; Corkery 1995). Apart from the fact that they lack resources and capacities in policy formulation, there is a more fundamental difference related to the political structure of developing countries. According to Pye (1958), the political sphere in the traditional societies of developing countries has remained undifferentiated from the spheres of social and personal relations. The private and group interests arising out of such relations are often the key drivers of policy formulation decisions. This hinders the development of a distinct policy sphere, thus limiting the scope for more evidence-based forms of policy formulation.

Due to this lack of a distinct policy sphere, political struggle often revolves around issues of identity and interests, themselves determined by patterns of social and personal relations, rather than the implications of alternative public policy options. In this situation, political leaders and parties enjoy political loyalty governed more by a sense of identification with a social group than by identification with a concrete policy option. This affective or expressive aspect overrides the problem-solving or public policy aspect of politics (Pye 1958). In turn, this provides space for the dominant sections of society to further their interests at the expense of the poor and marginalized.

What are the uses - both existing and potential - of policy formulation tools in such societies? Can policy formulation tools be effective in creating a space for more evidence-based policymaking and countering interest-based policymaking - as suggested in Turnpenny et al. (2009)? In other words, how does the political system in developing countries -characterized by interest-based politics embedded in social and personal relations - react to the introduction of policy formulation tools? This chapter addresses these questions by analyzing the case of India. An important question that this chapter also addresses is whether the type of policy formulation venue selected for tool use influences the prospects for using tools to counter interest-based policymaking.

The chapter begins with a short review of the emerging prospects for the introduction of tools in the context of ongoing economic reforms in India. The use of two policy formulation tools, cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and participatory assessment - each in different policy venues (in other words, institutional locations), of varying degrees of political influence - is then analyzed with a particular focus on the design, implementation and outcome. Based on this analysis the key questions are answered in the final section.

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