The path of the policy maker is often lined with constraints and frustrations that can only be understood by close information scrutiny. Policy making for the short term is hard and unpredictable. For the long term, the difficulty involved is even more since other considerations such as the opportunity costs of every probable decision should be considered. Several impediments exist for effective long term policy making. In most cases, politicians double up as policy makers. As Boston (2014) puts it, the major challenge they have then is ‘how to bring long-term policies into the short-term political hours’. The challenges are varied, ranging from consideration of the myopic electorate to resource constraints.
Impediments to long term policy making
The conditions that have been cited as being impediments social returns in the long term and institutional capacity (Jacobs, n.d). In most cases, political actors are tasked with the responsibility of policymaking. However, they are appealed only by choices that possess a specific temporal alignment. Their choices are constrained by the need for confidence in electoral safety, which is translated into votes. On the other hand, voters and other actors in policy making evaluate political actors retrospectively, based on a myopic outlook, hence impeding their capacity to make required policy investments.
In Gujarat, political mediation is a key feature of daily operations of the state and is deeply etched into the procedures. Politicians take personal credit when they execute state policies and the ability to garner votes is measured by the level of influence that one has in state operations (Berenschot, 2010). Institutional capacity is cited by Jacobs (n.d) as one of the prerequisite conditions for policy investment. The fact that India as a country is not self sufficient in terms of resources makes political mediation the easiest way of achieving desired objectives by the electorate.
It would be difficult for the electorate to advocate for policy investment when the available resources do not suffice for the present needs. For instance, it would be harder to convince the electorate in India that it is worthwhile to invest in strategies for reducing global warming when basic amenities such as drainage and water supply are lacking. At the same time, the politicians use political mediation as a form of brokerage, as patronage and for service particularization (Berenschot, 2010). It is intended as a means of gaining additional benefits from the electorate.
On the other hand, more developed states, which are more institutionally capable of taking care of the needs of their citizens such as the US may not have difficulty in informing the citizens of the need to invest in future friendly policies. For instance, the citizens do not need political mediation to achieve the required services from the government.
Current Methods of Dealing with the Impediments
Many strategies have been used by politicians to curb the negative impacts of these impediments, with most strategies aimed at optimizing the potential good from policies while maintaining the electorate’s loyalty. Similarly, scholars have proposed several means of ensuring that long-term policies are made even under the limiting factors, most of which depend on the ability to minimize present pain in achieving future gain.
In the present national systems, most of the countries rely on their politicians to make policies that are beneficial for the common good of the citizens. In the developed countries, this is possible with little or no impacts on the electorate loyalty, especially because most of the politicians have mastered the art of delegation for avoiding blame in policy errors (Weaver, 1987). In the other countries, particularly those that depend on grants and international financial body loans, the case may be different. This is because the politicians are viewed by the sources of financing as the main policy makers and any finance given is directed to them. In the light of limited government resources, they take this as a chance to mediate between the citizens and the required resources and services (Berenschot, 2010).
For instance, in a study by Berenschot (2010), the politics surrounding public service delivery in India is described as mediating. In this case, every service delivered to the public from government systems is characterized by the presence of a politician who acts as the go-between. Mediation politics plays an imperative role in day to day politics, with politicians being given the opportunity to determine factors such as who gets a promotion, where one is transferred to, etc. They are also used to get access to information faster as well as to conciliate between disputing citizens.
Conditions that facilitate long term policy making
Baumgartner et al (2006) assert that political systems are generally drifting and can be roused to action through collective attention directed at a specific issue. This is further explained on the basis that increased attention to an issue signifies that there is likelihood for a change in the policies surrounding the issue. This is true for long term policies too. For instance, in China, when the initial need to educate the masses about the impacts of HIV/AIDS arose, Dr.Li had to work with only one willing partner in order to prevent future incremental infections. Her efforts were met with hostility and at one time during the process, she was even laid off her job and given the ultimatum to stop her activities in order to be employed again (Szlezak & Howitt, 2006).
In her efforts to accomplish future good, she placed those infected at the risk of stigmatization and seclusion. However, this was only the present cost of future benefits at the time. With increased awareness of the state of affairs regarding HIV/ AIDS and increased involvement of many people as well as human rights groups, the political systems eventually shifted gear towards campaigning for the prevention of new infections (Szlezak & Howitt, 2006). This is also in line with the other conditions outlined by Jacobs (n.d.), which include expected long term returns and capability. The returns in this case were more of social than economic since by advocating for preventive measures, the government would prevent future deaths resulting from the disease hence cushioning itself against having to provide for orphaned children and to take care of the aged (Szlezak & Howitt, 2006).
The effects of public pressure as well as the impacts of existing policies on the possibility of inter-temporal policymaking are also observed in the case of the European Union tobacco law. In the banning of all forms of tobacco advertising by the EU initially, the decisions were made based on the already existing policies, which advocated for the prevention of cancer related deaths. Some of the countries had more stringent laws regarding direct and indirect tobacco advertising (Duina & Kurzer, 2010).This policy investment was long term, as it would protect citizens from tobacco related cancer deaths for years to come.
Brussels, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, the UK, and Denmark all opposed the new anti-advertising bill in the initial stages while other countries such as France and Italy voted for the new bill. It therefore underwent the scrutiny process for 13 years prior to enactment of a weaker version of the law. The differences in the attitudes of the different EU countries can be explained by the existing policies at the various times in the history of the nations. For instance, the countries that supported the bill from the early induction period of 1987 already had laws that vetoed tobacco advertising, whether direct or indirect. However, with a shift in values and the political systems experiencing pressure, Netherlands, Denmark, and the UK turned from opponents to supporters of the bill (Duina & Kurzer, 2010).
Proposals for Effective Long Term Policy Making
Weaver (1987) gives various proposals that can be used by policy makers to avoid the blames commonly associated with failed policies. The first method is to keep the contentious issue off the agenda. Alternatively, the policy makers may also find a way of sidelining the issue or obscuring it so that it does not gain unnecessary attention, which may result in blame. If a decision can potentially result in blame, it is advisable to delegate the policy making process or the resultant blame. In this way, long term objectives can be achieved through effective policing.
The issue of long-term policy making with possible short term negative effects has been described as a wicked challenge. However, as Boston (2014) opines, the challenge is not devoid of improvement avenues. The major constraints to futuristic policy making are considered to be electorate safety, considerations of potential social benefits, and institutional capacity. On the other hand, factors such as increasing pressure and a shift in the political system both contribute towards the facilitation of futuristic policy making. Other scholars have also proposed other ways of dealing with issues surrounding long term policy making. Some proposals include: manipulating procedures, perceptions and/or payoffs (Pal & Weaver, n.d).These strategies are characterized by the procedures such as delegating the responsibility of policy making while controlling the agenda, redefining the issue at hand, and throwing good money as pay off for the bad (Weaver, 1987).
Baumgartner, F., Green-Pedersen, C. & Jones, B. (2006). Comparative Studies of Policy Agendas. Journal of European Public Policy. 13(7):959-974.
Berenschot, W. (2010). Everyday Mediation: The Politics of Public Service Delivery in Gujarat, India. Journal of Development and Change, 41(5):883-905.
Boston, J. (2014, November 5). Governing for the Future: How to bring the long-term into short-term political focus. Center for Environmental Policy
Duina, F. & Kurzer, P. (2010). Smoke in your eyes: the struggle over tobacco control in the European Union. Journal of European Public Policy. Routledge.
Jacobs (n.d). Theorizing Inter-Temporal Policy Choice. In Jacobs, Governing for the Long –Term. (pp 28 – 71).
Pal, L. & Weaver, K. Eds. (n.d). The Government Taketh Away
Szlezak, N. & Howitt, A. (2006). Confronting HIV/ AIDS in Pingxiang, China. Kennedy School of Government Case Program.
Weaver, K. (1987). “The Politics of Blame”. The Brookings Review. 43-47.