Implementation Of Strategies And Policies

As the foregoing discussion has indicated, there are a large number of types of decision-makers in developing agriculture. Apart from the basic decision unit of the rural household, decision-makers include many kinds of village and producer associations (often referred to as 'social capital'), local and foreign enterprises, NGOs, local governments, provincial governments, decentralized agencies, central governments and international development agencies. It is increasingly accepted that decisions should be devolved to the lowest hierarchical level possible, that is, the level closest to those with a stake in the decision. This tends to ensure better accountability in decision-making. However, exceptions can occur when the weight and presumed neutrality of the central government may be needed to offset pressures by local elites placed on local governments and other organizations. In such cases, as in local government tax collection, the central government may work alongside local government institutions.

Implementation of a strategy requires the assent and active participation of many kinds of decision-makers. The central government usually has the responsibility of taking the lead in implementation, but it needs to act in co-ordination with local decision-makers. In the framework of a central or provincial government, implementation of policy decisions occurs only in the following five ways:

• New legislation

• Administrative decisions and decrees of the executive branch that alter the rules governing the economic environment for agriculture and change institutional structures

19. Dani Rodrik, 'Development Strategies for the 21st Century', in B. Pleskovic and N. Stern (Eds), World Bank Annual Conference on Development Economics, 2000, The World Bank, Washington, DC, USA, 2001, pp. 87 and 105-106 [emphasis added].


• Allocations of public investment, or capital account funding, some of which may come from external partners in development

• Allocations of the current account budget of the government

• Voluntary participation in implementation by the private sector and civil society

Implementation may occur through more than one of these channels simultaneously, as in the case of programs that require both investment and current account spending and are supported by new administrative decrees. Policy implementation is a major undertaking, a challenge that is sometimes underestimated. To be successful, it requires conviction, consensus and co-ordination. Conviction is required on the part of those who are promoting reforms, for in most cases they will face many obstacles along the road to implementation. Consensus is required among government agencies and above all with the private sector and local decision making entities, for without their active support it is difficult to implement policy reforms fully. They also must be coordinated with international agencies that are supporting the development effort. In addition, co-ordination is required among the reforms themselves and among the implementation efforts, to ensure consistency all along the way and to maintain the pace of reforms on schedule.

To achieve the required consensus and coordination, often it is necessary to undertake extensive negotiations with interest groups, both within the sector and outside the sector, and with international agencies as well. Through this process, a strategy will be molded to political realities, but the clearer the initial vision and the more cogent the technical justifications, then the better the chances that the main thrusts of the strategy - or at least some of them - will emerge intact from such a process. In the end, a nation's political authorities, including both executive and legislative branches, through negotiation with the private sector and civil society and international agencies, will determine the main lines of the country's development strategy. However, the attempt to develop a coordinated and internally consistent strategy, involving the participation of many of those actors, can elevate the level of the national debate over policy options and lead to improvements in policies. Participatory approaches to strategy formulation are reviewed in Chapter 9.

A common procedure for implementing a strategy at the central government level is through the development of annual implementation plans. Such plans co-ordinate both the current account and investment budgets of the government, as well as the implementation activities of all of the agencies involved and the participating bodies of the private sector.

Even the simplest of reforms usually require 10 or more, sometimes as many as 30, significant steps, and so implementation plans must assign responsibilities and target dates and provide for close monitoring of the progress. The complexity of the implementation process is one of several reasons why it is important to move the process forward as rapidly as possible, while still maintaining co-ordination with all interested parties.

The dividing line between policy design, dissemination (attaining consensus) and implementation is not a sharp one. Effective dissemination is essential for putting new policies into effect, and during the dissemination phase feedback is often received which results in changes in the design of the policies. In general, the following six stages can be identified in the phase of dissemination-

Roger Douglas, who was New Zealand's Finance Minister from 1984 to 1988, when that country carried out what was widely hailed as a very successful structural reform program, commented thus on the need for quick action in a reform program: 'Speed is essential. It is impossible to move too fast. The total program will take some years to implement even at maximum speed. . . . Move too slowly and the consensus that supports reform can collapse before the results are evident. . . . It is uncertainty, not speed, that endangers structural reform programs' (The Wall Street Journal, January 17, 1990).

cum-implementation, that is, after an initial design for policy reform has been proposed:

• Promotion of the new policies among all concerned policy makers (including in Ministries other than Agriculture).

• Dissemination of the new policies and their benefits among producers and the public at large and to international development agencies.

• Drafting of the implementation plan or program for implementation through the five channels indicated above. (The more concrete the policy proposals are in the strategy, then the easier is this task.)

• Implementation of the policies.

• Monitoring the implementation.

• Evaluation of the results and modification of the implementation plan.

In any of the first five of these stages, the policy design itself is subject to modification as additional elements of reality are brought to bear on the proposals.

In spite of the flexibility that such design changes require, it is important to maintain conceptual consistency over time in regard to the main lines of the proposed reforms. Uncertainty about the basic directions of a development strategy discourages consensus and weakens the prospects for implementation, plus it may discourage investment and production in the sector as well.

Policy implementation is a demanding task, and for that reason it merits careful attention and a systematic approach. Implementation capacity often is a very scarce resource in the public sector. Without successful implementation, even the best designed policies are of no value.

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