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Public policy, think tanks & state-building?

It goes certainly irrefutable to say that at present Pakistan is hemmed in by manifold policy challenges in terms of state building. Right policy direction and its implementation is the only way forward to overcome the present and future crises. Sadly, our national patience is losing its moorings. Yet viewing neutrally, there is a piece of ample evidence that the spontaneous or eruptive moves with regard to our national policies are mainly because of our failure to address the issues of public policy via systematic and academic discourse. The crucial reality is that our good intentions are not enough to redress our policy ailments. Indeed, a proactive public policy framework is the key to resolving the current policy chaos.
The presence of never ending challenges and problems in every society is inevitable. Public policy is a tool; an action, or a regulation, formulated by the governments to address those societal problems which may appear in areas of both foreign and domestic affairs ranging from economic planning, education, politics, heath, transportation to the very domain of diplomatic statecraft ship. The role of any government is to implement and promote such public policies that contribute towards economic growth, sustainable development, and the improvement of the socio-economic well-being of the local people. Understandably, a good public policy is, nevertheless the one that basically identifies a triple-win solution which considers economic, social, and environmental gains altogether. Hence, a good policy is also the one that solves problems without causing political disagreements between parties and encourages active citizenry. Regulatory frameworks should be designed in a way so that they use the state finances and encourage new technology in a way that not only generates sustainable outcomes but also benefit the most vulnerable members of the society.
Think tanks are globally emerging, at an exponential rate, into the debate on and design of public policies in all organic areas of day to day life: health, education, culture, law, economics, security, defence, environment, natural resources, energy and international relations, to name a few. Undoubtedly, these thinking public centres do influence policy decision making at both national and international levels and are an instrumental resource for the political management of states. In every developed nation, there are numerous think tanks working to establish, frame or indoctrinate the national policies. But unfortunately, Pakistan is very limited in this area. These think tanks on the national policy are the cradles of national intelligentsia formed policy recommendation, orientations and thinking.
In addition, think tanks are a soft power instrument and virtually represent an alternative for a state to be able to develop its leadership at the international level. It has been proven that American, German and French think tanks have managed to export themselves beyond their national borders using on-site offices and teams. Both the American and the EU think tanks are the correct point of reference. For example, the United States and its think tanks can be found in Brussels, Ankara, Berlin, Paris, Bucharest, Warsaw, Tunis, Cambridge, London and Doha, running the global intellectual arena. Undeniably, the think tanks with a physical presence abroad, act as intellectual power hubs when defining standards – economic, cultural, political, legal – by integrating working groups into the bodies of supranational institutions. The phenomenon of the internationalisation of think tanks opens possibilities for international and global leadership and for the production of global thinking via cross-fertilization of ideas along with creating global hubs or capitals of thought.
Governments-the main organizational entities pursuing public policies-seldom provide data one can use to assess overall policy ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of chosen policy initiatives. One option they do offer is public sector deficit numbers, which allow one to see where governments spend more on policy engagements than citizens can afford. Nonetheless, evidence strongly suggests that real world of policymaking seems much more divisive since it intricate some competing approaches –particularly an advocacy framework, therefore, it is necessary to elucidate by what means such frameworks explain policymaking– where the decision making is made in dictatorial styles and patterns in those countries– which are politically independent but economically dependent on international financial institutions, and whose intellectuals are highly educated and well-read but they reflect a captive mindset.
This measure does not capture what governments actually achieve with the money, however, through the many projects and activities they fund. Beyond this, governments typically offer audit reports to report on spending behaviour, but these tend to provide limited information on the compliance of legislated budgets. The problem faced by the present government is that it has had no fair resource data shared to it by the previous government.
Policies in Pakistan fail because of poor governance caused by micro and mega level corruption along with the curse of corporate clientelism. An analysis of previous development policy failures provides evidence that policy failure has roots in class, institutional, and political structures. Effective and honest public policies can serve as a means to provide every member of the state a chance for economic and social empowerment. However, the corruption level in Pakistan has only resulted in a lack of trust in the government and a feeling of deprivation as their rights are duly ignored.
Formulated, indoctrinated and implemented by state managers, foreign policy fully belongs to the field of public policy studies, whose academic and professional approaches have proved relevant to analyze its formulation. Yet, it remains singular for several reasons. In constant interdependence with extraterritorial and mostly unpredictable variables, it seems to be more reactive or at least less proactive than that of most domestic policies normally formulated. As good strategic thinking would have influenced it, presently our foreign policy is moving in the right direction.
To conclude. It appears that the formulation of an objective and vital public policy that meets the very founding ideals of Pakistan is the most crying challenge faced by Pakistan today. And yet in order to prevent Pakistan from an old adage irony :The more things change, the more they stay the same, the present Government needs to enhance the role of thinks tanks in formulating our policies based on their fair appraisal and inputs.Today, Pakistan needs to diligently work in this regard beyond any means of bureaucratic intervention. Pakistan’s stable future is organically linked to objective reforms.



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