Introduction The term ‘policy’ originates from the word polis which means “plans of action or system of management”
The term ‘policy’ originates from the word polis which means “plans of action or system of management” (Dye, 2012). Anderson (2015) defines policy as a different path of action that is appropriate for pursuing the preferred goals within a certain framework that direct a decision making of an association or person. Policies are made on behalf of public. Bardach, (2000) therefore, describes Public policy as a decision made by the country to either act or not, having an idea of resolving a problem. Positively, public policy has principles that promote governance. This explains that, without policy governance cannot be released. Public policy is diverse in nature because it is multi-disciplinary and multi-method and options (Howlett & Ramesh., 2003). In this regard, the term has no consensus definition, making it to be perceived differently. It is the interest of this paper to explain different definitions of public policy based on; policy involves behavior as well as intentions, policy as a process, policy as an outcome, policy as an output and policy as formal authorization.
With respect to policy involving behavior as well as intentions, sometimes governments have good intentions to initiate project in an area. Significantly, these projects have ability to foster development in the society by among other things, reducing poverty gap between the poor and the rich (Dye, 2012). However, it has been observed that behavior of elected officials in regards to public policy implementation, leave a lot to be desired. For instance, in 2015 Malawian President Peter Mutharika promised Malawians, that his government will construct Mombera University in the district of Mzimba. In his speech, he did not clarify when the project will be finished. Later, after delivering the speech, the foundation stone was laid on Sunday 22 March, 2015 for the project (Moyo, 2018). Nevertheless, up to date, there is no any progress taking place at the site other than just the foundation. Consequently, skeptics have defined the project as a white elephant because government is failing to take shape (ibd). Negatively, policies that generate from behavior as well as intentions lacks policy tools, therefore, there are prone to government violation.
With respect to policy as a process, in this view is about how public policy is formed, implemented and evaluated. In this context, the ideas for the public policy have two sources; society or through the interaction between public and state. Howlett and Ramesh., (2003) identifies stages of public policy; agenda setting, policy formulation, adoption, implementation and evaluation. Once public policy is adopted, the state employs policy tools such as; sanctions, regulations and legislations as a way of changing citizen’s behavior in order to meet public interest, for example, the 2015 Marriage Divorce and family relation bill. The process included several stages as well as different stakeholders such as; law commission, parliamentary women caucus, the society, international non-governmental organization and then Minister of Gender children, disability and social welfare honorable Pratricia Kaliati (Marriage Divorce and family relation bill, 2015). However, the public policy that involves process is time consuming because there are procedures that are observed before public policy is processed. Another challenge in democratic states is that, it is difficult to successfully influence behavior change of the citizens.
With respect to policy as an outcome, in this context, the public policy only focuses on the achievement of that policy, without considering its impact or life time consequences on the citizens (Gerston, 1997). Precisely, it ignores the findings of environment impact assessment. In this case, the main focus of the policy is to see it achieving its outcome. For instance, in 2007 Malawian government signed a mining contract with Paladin Energy Company. This Kayelekera Uranium mining project is in Karonga, Malawi. However, the elected officials did not take into account the environmental impact of uranium mining on the people around the area. This entails that, policy implementers ignored the environment impact assessment. Lately, international human rights report of between 2015 to July, 2016 indicated that the residents around Kayelekera Uranium mining are exposed to radiation. Further argued that, residents that live close to the cool and Uranium mining are likely face health risks that eminent from mining sites (international human rights report, 2015-2016). Another example would be the abolition of Malawi’s public secondary school fees. Gerald Cunningham, the Irish ambassador to Malawi argued that, the decision to remove fees will compromise the quality of education in secondary schools (Khamula, 2018). This explains that, the policyis only geared to seeing an increase in public secondary school enrollment, but has nothing to with the impact that will emanate from the decision.
With respect to policy as an output, in this regard, the public policy focuses on what it delivers to its citizens contrary to what it promised. In this case, the policy can register a failure in the delivery of promised output, but due to other factors such as politics, the policy implementers keep on implementing the policy (Hill, 2009). For instance, Farm input subsidy program (FISP) in Malawi. The program promised to promote; smallholder farmers, food security at state level and increase food production among others. To the contrary, the FISP has been criticized for a huge leakage, ignoring the household goals and some combination that are contrary to program’s principles (Crawford et al., 2003).
With respect to policy as formal authorization, authorization according to Hogwood and Gunn (1984) is defined as a process of giving someone permission to act on something. In Malawian context, when acts of parliament or statutory laws are enacted; an action is needed especially to those found violating such guidelines. For example, anyone found in conflict with 2015 Marriage Divorce and family relation law, he/she is likely to face the rough side of the law.
In conclusion, the paper has established that elected officials are primary actors of public policy. It has also demonstrated that public policy has ability to drive the economic growth of country, only if the policy tools such as; sanctions, regulations, legislations and taxes among others are applied equally to all wrongdoers. These tools initiate behavior change on the citizens, thereby meeting public interest.