A Public Policy Analysis Framework for Studying Structural Reforms

The structural reforms addressed in this book will be studied from a public policy perspective, aiming to understand how the machinery of interacting actors in a public domain works in producing public actions and outcomes (John, 1998). From the many definitions of what a public policy is, we see a public policy as ‘a set of interrelated decisions taken by a political actor or group of actors concerning the selection of goals and the means of achieving them’ (Jenkins, 1978). It concerns a purposive course of action in response to a perceived problem of a constituency, formulated through a specific political process. A public policy is often the result of multiple decisions taken by multiple decision-makers, often scattered throughout complex government organisations (Howlett and Ramesh, 1995, p. 6).

Policy analysts should address the following questions: What is the nature of the problem? Which courses of action have been chosen to solve the problem? What are the outcomes of choosing a particular course of action? and Does achieving the outcomes contribute to solving the problem? (Dunn 2004, p. 3). Thus, policy analysts should look into (1) problem structuring (definition - information about the problem to solve), (2) monitoring (description - information about the observed outcomes of policies), (3) evaluation (appraisal - information about the value of expected and observed outcomes) and (4) recommendation (prescription - information about the preferred policies).

insights from sociology, organisational studies, management sciences, political science, economics and psychology as well as sector-specific knowledge can be used for analysing public policies (John, 1998). Over the last 50 years, this multidisciplinary perspective has led to the development and promotion of a substantial number of policy models (e.g. Easton, 1965; Howlett and Ramesh, 1995; John, 1998; Kingdon, 1984; Sabatier, 1988,

1991; Teisman, 2000; Wu and Knoke, 2013). John (1998) categorises the plethora of theories and models into five: institutional approaches, group and network approaches, socio-economic approaches, rational choice theory and ideational approaches.

As we do not want to force a single approach onto our 11 case analyses by independent researchers, we employ a neutral, procedural approach to structure the case studies in the following chapters. Therefore, in this book, we will take the policy stage model as our point of departure to structure the analysis of structural reforms. Public policies are complex, comprehensive and dynamic; hence, there is need for ordering and simplification. Although we are well aware that the policy stage model does not fully reflect the complexities of policy processes in reality (e.g. Howlett and Ramesh, 1995; Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1993), it is a helpful heuristic to study policy processes analytically, and to compare the goals, processes and outcomes of the different case studies. This approach implies that policy processes can be divided into a number of interrelated stages: agenda setting and problem definition, policy preparation and design, policy formulation and decision, policy implementation, and policy evaluation and feedback. John (1998, p. 185) underlines this interrelatedness when he argues, ‘Just as policy proposals are part of the soup, so too are implementation strategies. (...) The activities are completely intertwined. The only difference is that some actors are exclusive to agenda-setting (...) and others are just policy implementors (...)’.

The presumption that each policy stage has its own logic, and that different actors can be involved in different stages (or the same actors but in different roles) paves the way to introduce elements of some of the other policy analysis models into the stage model. Examples are Kingdon’s policy streams model, Baumgartner et al.’s ( 2014) punctuated equilibrium model and John’s (1998) evolutionary model of public policy - three models which explain how various actors interact with and respond to each other to produce policy action in the different stages.

In fact, we argue that each stage of the policy process can be regarded as an action arena, framed by exogenous factors and institutional arrangements (cf. Ostrom’s actor-centred institutional analysis and development framework; Ostrom, 2005), with its own logics and participants (‘actor constellation’; Scharpf, 1997). The outcomes of the interrelated policy arenas are the result of at least three actor-related aspects: (1) the preferences of an actor (goals, ideas, beliefs and interests), (2) the actor’s capabilities (action potential, resources available) and (3) the interaction of actors, partially set by institutional rules and context-specific circumstances. The result of the interaction among the actors determines the courses of action taken in each arena (John, 1998; McConnell, 2010).

The underlying analytical framework for this book is presented in the next, simplified figure (Fig. 1; especially the number of feedback arrows has been reduced). The various action arenas will be addressed below.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >