The Educational Role of a Strategy

One of the most basic roles of a strategy is to elevate the level of the national dialog on policies. As long as the policy dialog is conducted between special interests and government officials, the result tends to be a pattern of exceptions to the rule of uniform treatment. Such discussions tend to be conducted in narrow terms of benefits and losses for a particular group which might result from reforms, even though society as a whole might gain from them. The process of developing a strategy provides an opportunity to raise the dialog to the level of national development issues to be confronted and constraints to be overcome, and the gains to the nation that would flow from doing so. It can have a long-term educational value for the public that transcends the concrete benefits that arise from implementing key parts of it.

1. Hans Binswanger has underscored the equity aspect: 'Providing privileges or reducing competition in output, input, and credit markets is costly to consumers and taxpayers and ends up hurting small farmers and the rural poor, even if such an effect is unintended'. (H. Binswanger, Agriculture and Rural Development: Painful Lessons', in Carl K. Eicher and John M. Staatz (Eds), International Agricultural Development, 3rd Edn, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, USA, 1998, p. 298.)

Developing a strategy also is an educational process for the participants. It is emphasized later in this chapter that, to the extent possible, strategy formulation should be a participatory process. As well as respecting democratic values, such an approach strengthens the support for the strategy. It also improves its content because the participants can collectively represent the best national expertise on each of the problem areas. Yet, technical experts are not always familiar with all policy considerations in their fields. Often, they will have been working completely within an existing policy framework, and they may not be accustomed to thinking in terms of alternative frameworks, especially radically different alternatives. Hence work on a strategy can provide a learning-by-doing process for all participants, in learning how to define the policy issues themselves in fruitful ways and how to pursue solutions in perhaps unaccustomed directions.

The learning process can extend to providing participants with a greater understanding of the agendas of donor agencies, through dialogs with representatives of those agencies. The dialogs, in turn, can establish communications channels so that in the future donor agencies are able to work with a broader spectrum of leaders of society in formulating their programs for a country.

A draft strategy and the final version of the document may play different roles. The latter is the formal basis for an implementation program but the former, simply because it has the status of a draft, sometimes can address sensitive issues that policy makers have sidestepped. An example of this role is provided by the draft National Development Strategy for Guyana.2 Among the issues it discussed openly was the option of privatizing the national sugar industry. At the time, the Cabinet was firmly opposed to that option, and in fact it had not been possible to discuss the question in any public forum. However, since the

In one of its many editorials commenting on the National Development Strategy in Guyana, The Stabroek News, an independent newspaper often regarded by Government as representing an opposition viewpoint, had this to say:

The draft National Development Strategy should be required reading for our politicians, businessmen, trade unionists and academics. Containing useful and interesting ideas and discussions on every aspect of the economy and its processes it cannot help but raise the level of public debate which in so many areas is ill-informed and bereft of any theoretical or systemic framework. (From the Stabroek News, Georgetown, Guyana, March 6, 1997. )

strategy was explicitly a preliminary and technical draft for public consultation, in the context of a comprehensive national review of economic options, the Ministry of Finance agreed to let stand a full analysis of the privatization option. For this reason, it can be valuable to label the first version as a technical draft and to underscore that fact, to free up the discussion from political constraints.

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