Political parties and people in government do not have absolute knowledge in public policymaking. There is a void created between the conception of public policies and their implementation.
Therefore, the inadequacies in public policymaking and their implementation can be addressed by the advisories of Civil Society in the Country.
Elinor Ostrom, a Nobel laureate in economics once remarked that “a core goal of public policy should be to facilitate the development of institutions that bring out the best in humans”. Achieving this goal is the desire of the CSOs in the country.
Some of the public policies in Ghana need critical evaluation, to assess the choice of an optimal decision for the masses. Sometimes government appointees or communication officers have been a hindrance in the offering of solutions, by institutions that are not operating in the government sector, ascertained after thorough investigations and analysis.
Governments are supposed to facilitate the growth and development of markets and institutions through public policy planning. This cannot be achieved independently without the extensive evaluation of the policies. It is often difficult to achieve a balance between public policymaking and independent evaluation of policies, especially if the evaluation is carried out by people who are not party faithfuls. But party faithfuls do not and cannot give independent opinions about policies made by their parties without prejudices. Party faithfuls make commentary on policies of governments that are untenable.
Civil Society Organisations often called the Citizen sector, play critical roles in the formulation and implementation of policies. The CSOs in Ghana have expertise that is relevant in shaping the direction of government policies. CSOs offer constructive roles in development planning and policymaking. The criticisms of the CSOs serve as early warning mechanism that can help check poor implementation of policies. They equally monitor and critically assess the outcomes of policies.
The personnel including all the staff, manning the CSOs in the country have much expertise in several fields and so they possess adequate expertise to criticize the government and public sector policies. The CSOs are perceived as institutions that give negative view or picture of governments and their goals. Yet, governments that encourage broad-based development participation incorporate the opinions of Civil Society. Governments customarily find it difficult to integrate the views of the CSOs because they are not democratic in their policy formulation and implementation. The CSOs are needed because those in politics lack the toughness to be faithful in their evaluations.
The CSOs too have never had it right all the time. They sometimes fail to provide empirically grounded reasons and analysis of government policies. Their criticisms are not in themselves absolute. But they always give censures and reasons that adequately address the problems of the day. Many of the CSOs have made assessments on government policies and projects they were not accurate. Sometimes their opinions are perfect, they reveal solutions to problems that affect society.
It is very rigid seeking development planning consensus. The success of development planning does not depend on what governments do, what the CSOs, the citizen sector, do have positive impacts on public policy. The difficulty in having a consensus in development planning is found in what can be described as “intellectual conflict”. The CSOs often feel they offer the best of policy alternatives which are ignored by the implementing authorities whereas governments want to demonstrate authority. It is hurting to proffer ideas that solve a particular issue to be rejected ultimately.
The CSOs should not be described as all-knowing because they are always critical of governments and have it tough with state institutions. The failure of the government sector indicates there is the need for the Citizen sector to step in and fill the void in evaluating policies.
In fact, governments should strive to incorporate some ideas offered by the CSOs to achieve the desires of the citizens. The CSOs are acting on behalf of the citizens who may find it extremely difficult to pinpoint the lapses in government policies. The level of public education in the country does not permit the influence of public policy through public pressures.
The political parties and their governments should appreciate the efforts of the CSOs and embrace them as friends whose intentions are purely geared towards development and not only exposing the rots of governments. The CSOs, on the other hand, should recognise the inability of governments to accept every alternative idea they offer. This is because some of these solutions are inappropriate to the problems or issues at hand.
Many of the CSOs in Ghana delight in commenting on every issue. There is a failure in the public sector as there cannot be perfect public policies. However, the CSOs cannot be perfect in their assessments. The work of the CSOs will have acknowledgement if they focus on reviewing public policies in a fair manner. CSOs do not know it all but they have superior policy alternatives.
Emmanuel Kwabena Wucharey
Economics Tutor, A growing Activist and Religion Enthusiast.