Public Policy Failure In Pakistan

Public Policy Failure In Pakistan
Addressing problems of the public is the main responsibility of the government; the government of Pakistan like other democratic governments of the world policies is formulated. But still, Pakistan is facing various socio-economic problems like low literacy rate, high rate of out-of-school children, malnutrition, low health expectancy, and low per capita income.

These state policies in Pakistan particularly for public sector development always fail to achieve their targeted goals and objectives. There are multiple reasons that can be associated with the failure of policies.

Generally, public policies are formulated to increase welfare of general public and give importance to the perceptions of all stakeholders while in Pakistan policies are prepared by and formulated by elites and powerful lobbyists.

Rosita Armytage mentioned in her book “Big Capital in an Unequal World” that in Pakistan business, bureaucratic, political, and military elites are highly interlinked. What this means is that in Pakistan policies are formed by either political actors or bureaucratic actors and they definitely will take into consideration the interest of fellow elites. Without considering the perception of all stakeholders, the formation of a policy is the first step in the failure of a policy before its implementation.

The Pakistan Public Sector Development Projects (PSDP) establishes policies for the welfare of public. Every year, billions of funds are allocated to PSDP and while budget allocation is fair, there is no denying that PSDP projects are at risk of being influenced by elites and lobbyists.

During the policy formulation stage, policymakers and practitioners consider the socio-cultural setting of the areas. But in the case of Pakistan like other commodities we just import other country’s policies and projects without considering the difference in socio-cultural and economic settings. Implementing any European policy or project does not necessarily mean that because it works in Europe it will work in Pakistan.

The success of a policy/project is also dependent on whether it is based on economics or it is a political decision. When policy is formulated for economic growth, the probability of success increases but unfortunately, the majority of public sector policies/projects in Pakistan are political patronage. And when policy becomes political patronage its life cycle is badly affected with the change of government.

The lack of critical thinkers and researchers in the policy cycle is another factor in the failure of successful policy making in Pakistan.

Sustainable development becomes possible only when policy actors contemplate policy for long term not for short term. All around the world new projects based on policies are introduced after the completion of previous projects. But here in Pakistan every year, political patronage tends to increase which has a negative impact on the work that is being done in terms of time management and cost management problems which intensify failure of projects.

Like local pressure groups and elite groups, international actors play a significant role in the development, success and failure of policies and projects. Different international organizations like IMF, World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank are frequently used as financing sources for projects. As a result, policies are laid down in accordance priority and advice of donors. Such organisations may not realise the full context of the environment in which policies are to be implemented which means that as a result projects fail to deliver desired outcomes.

For socio-economic development in Pakistan, now a paradigm shift in the policy cycle has become extremely necessary. First Pakistan needs to expand its tax bases so that foreign and donor dependence reduces. Once such constraints reduce we can form policies and organized projects according to socio-economic settings and priorities. The planning commission at both the federal and provincial levels should ensure integration with scientific monitoring and evaluation practices which ensure if any policy or project fails to deliver, then corrective measures should be takes and the budget of the concerned departments reduce for future intervention. Such a step will also ensure all policies/projects are developed and implemented according to economic feasibility not to political patronage.

In Pakistan, there is no mechanism for public input during the development of policies and projects. All concerns and opinions of all stakeholders such as the general public, researchers, and academicians need to be considered otherwise this vacuum will be filled by lobbyists and elites for their personal gains.

Wajhullah Fahim is a research student at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Islamabad.