The Policy Process consists of many different and connected parts and is not easily explained theoretically because it involves diverse category of actors; is influenced by experimentation, learning from mistakes, etc; is shaped by discourse and narratives; and is highly political. The policy process focuses on the way that leads to decision making and it has different stages which include, Agenda Setting, Decision Making, Implementation and Monitoring & Evaluation.
In short, we can now say that the policy process is the way policy reforms are planned, designed, implemented and evaluated. Explaining the complex policy process requires a policy analyst who is knowledgeable and trained in the field and is able to solve complex policy issues; balance constituents’ need with the political and economic realities of governance; and gather and analyze information to assist in the planning, development, interpretation, and review of government or industrial politics. Gupta, D. K. 2010).
A Policy Analyst, also called a researcher or a scholar, is a person who works to raise public awareness of social issues, such as crime prevention, access to health care, and protection of the environment. An analyst in government creates policy and evaluates program effectively and provides decision makers with data and hypotheses about the effects of different policies. Blanchard S. (1997). The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a regional group of fifteen countries, founded in 1975.
Its mission is to promote economic integration in all fields of economic activity, particularly industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial questions, social and cultural matters. The ECOWAS Commission and the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development, more often called The Fund are its two main institutions designed to implement policies, pursue a number of program and carry out development projects in Member States. Such projects include intra-community road construction; telecommunications; and agricultural, energy and water resources development.
With this background, we now take look at the key roles of the analyst in the policy process and the skills-set and knowledge an analyst should have to be successful in the ECOWAS Region. To attain the desired aim or result as an analyst can be very challenging when thinking about the potential applications and repercussions of a policy. To succeed in the policy analysis career, one must be on top of logical reasoning and have an intimate knowledge of the legal and political systems in the nation or institution of work, along with an understanding of social attitudes that can influence policy.
To identify and prioritize policy issues; clarify government policy objectives; identify potential conflicts in terms of objectives and interests; identify current policies and their consequences; identify alternative viable policy instruments, their probable direct and indirect consequences and the risk that these may not materialize; develop criteria and indicators to assess progress towards objectives; design viable policy packages, with associated strategies to obtain political support and to ensure organizational effectiveness; advocate viable policy packages in a clear, brief and persuasive way; review government policies and design viable policy packages; and help policy makers take appropriate decisions on sensitive issues. These are the things a policy analyst does. Blanchard S. (2007).
Principally, policy analyst in decision making process should be cognizance of administrative rules, procedures and routines which characterizes the public in action. You should posses a superior application of rationality both in decision (policy) and implementing decisions (administration), have a claim and more rigorous methods of investigation, and effective regard for efficient means of operation. Decision making in the policy process as an analyst in the ECOWAS Region is indeed cardinal to sustain socio-political and economic stability. An analyst should understand and draw distinctions between management and policy making, define stages of government activities (decision making), implement those decisions and evaluate the outcome.
This analyst must frequently and simplistically offer a solution to what is said to be the “central problem of bureaucratic inadequacy”, Should be knowledgeable in program budgeting to relate expenditure budgeting to define goals and outputs, again with the intention of controlling the cost of achieving set objectives. Another essential tool a policy analyst should posses in decision making in the ECOWAS Region is necessary and sufficient information in public policy making; information is frequently inadequate and simply not available, yet there is constrained supplied by time and events. Chooses between competing objectives can be rationally determined on the basis of accurate formulation of knowledge. A major problem for rational method is the reliance upon knowledge which is quantifiable. According to Lord William Beveridge (1942) “reason and special knowledge have the chance only if there is a channel of access to those who have power”.
Implementation in the policy process is a crucial business of translating decisions into events: of getting done. The policy analyst can at least agree that getting things done, or implementation, is a crucial aspect of the real world of public policy making, and one which has been neglected in theoretical literature. Implementation relates to specified objectives, the translation into practice of the policy emerge from the complex process of decision making. As a policy analyst, management of state policies might be of universal interest, which makes more essential a proper scrutiny of the claims of managerialism. Policy scientist is likely, skeptical of how much effect management can have on the success of public policies.
As a policy analyst, Christopher Hood once said, “real administration give an account of real organizational life” and thus summarize his model as follows: 1. An administrative system should be unitary, with a single line of authority; 2. Objective must be given, uniform, explicit, and known throughout the system; 3. Clear and authoritative objective must still be implemented, to achieve this, the system must ensure either perfect obedience or perfect control: there must be perfect information and communication, with all task unambiguously specified and precisely coordinated; all these conditions require an adequate time scare for fulfillment.
In public organizations, no meaningful distinction between policy and administration is possible, and policies roposed and authorized by former political institutions and participants are in a wide variety of ways influence, mediated, and even altered by formal administrative institutions and participants at both higher and lower levels. (Hood calls this, in the implementation stage, knocking off the corners to get policy through the front door). The problem of policy making might be clearly define of what is involve in good management which was further demonstrated by the reference to the question of information. Hood’s model says that information must be accurate and must be communicated. Clearly, it is essential for governments to estimate results, to measure these results, and learn from them.
Evaluation is feedback, and technically such feedback operates as a self adjusting mechanism, alternatively, evaluation might generate more data on which the policy analyst base on to improve population of best future policies. Major problem arise with the nature of political leadership and organizational behavior. Political leaders will not be anxious to have too critical an examination of their failure; this will be particularly so if, as with many economic plans in states, political leaders have never intended implementation but sought only the easier fruits of political rhetoric. We need to understand as analyst operating in a complex environment that evaluation is not merely a technical matter, nor even a question of good practice, it is, or maybe a highly political issue.
We are always, therefore, likely to find that an absence of evaluation contributes further to the uncertainties an unsystematic nature of politics, and in its analysis, the uncertainty principle might be given great regard. One significant effect is to widen the gap which exists between theory and practice. This gap is created in a variety of ways. The most obvious problem is the absence of real political or administrative experience in those who teach and theorize about public policy. This the analyst partly explains to remoteness of theory from the real world policy. Some policy analyst would quite deliberately avoid any involvement in the real world of policy on the ground that this might impose upon their unwanted intellectual constrictions, as well as quite practical constrains.
As an analyst, it not difficult to understand this tension between academic and practitioners, each threatens to interfere with the activities of other. The theorist wishes to distance itself intellectually from the real policy world to avoid the ideological contamination which inevitably comes from actual participation in an area of policy. The practitioner tends to avoid over exposure to a wide range of ideas.
Finally, policy analysis is synonymous with creativity, and with defining problems rather than offering handy solutions, policy analysis the more creative calculations concern finding problems for which solutions might be attempted.
To be a successful policy analyst in the ECOWAS Region, you must be able to manage time, be able to think clearly and practically, be able to combine/structure ideas to form theories for research, must be dependable when it comes to creating frameworks for quantitative and qualitative data analysis, and must have good verbal and writing skills. In short, you must be able to work hard, plan, communicate, do critical readings and suggestions, be logical and have research skills. Have a perception and sense of the region, you must know the political geography and national boundaries, have geographic perspectives on democracy and elections, must be knowledgeable on geography and migration analysis, population policies and issues, and must be able to analyze the sustainable urban development and transportation of West Africa to bring sustained economic growth and democracy to the region.