Frequently asked Questions
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Public policies are a relatively new and multifaceted term, and they denote:the direction of the Government’s (the ministries and state administration) and the local self-government’s action on the path to the achievement of economic and social objectives that best serve the interest of Serbia and its citizens;a set of measures the Government undertakes in all major areas of development (the business sector, health care, education, employment, science, innovation, etc.), i.e. mutually interlinked activities through which the Government intervenes and responds to specific social challenges and problems, thus making the desired changes.Public policies therefore go to the very heart of any reform. It is of vital importance that adopted public policies be complementary, mutually aligned, and synchronised. The crucial role of public policy coordination is entrusted to the Public Policy Secretariat of the Republic of Serbia.
The Government has at its disposal a set of five types of measures through which it implements public policies, thus making an impact on the development of the society and the economy, intervening, concretely responding to social challenges and problems, and thus attaining the desired changes. These types are:
- regulatory measures (i.e. regulations through which inter-societal relations are regulated);
- incentives (such as subsidies or taxes);
- informative-educational measures (they have the form of information campaigns);
- institutional-organizational measures (the setting up or the abolishment of institutions, and the establishment of essential organizational structures);
- measures that involve public investments made through capital and infrastructural projects.
Public policies are developed and/or elaborated through public policy documents. Depending on the inclusiveness and complexity of desired changes in a targeted area and the degree of elaboration of measures, there are four types of public policy documents. These are: the Strategy, the Programme, the Concept Paper, and the Action Plan
The process of public policy development has several stages. The first one relates to the initiative for defining a public policy that, in practice, is launched by a line ministry or a responsible state body. The initiative can also come from a local self-government body, citizens, business entities, civil society organisations, and other organisations. This will depend on who and in what way is to be affected by a public policy. As early as in this stage the consultative process needs to begin as it should involve all the interested parties, i.e. representatives of all the entities that will in some way be affected by a public policy. The next step is the prior (ex ante) analysis of public policy effects to screen the advantages and the disadvantages of various public policy options, i.e. costs and benefits for the budget, the business sector, the society, the environment, and the administration. What follows is the policy formulation through a selected public policy document (a strategy, a programme..), then adoption, implementation, and the monitoring of implementation of a public policy, and, ultimately, the evaluation of the score, i.e. the subsequent (ex post) analysis of policy effects that is to show whether the undertaken measures have produced the expected results and, if not, why they have failed.
Of all the listed stages the most complex and time-consuming stage is the prior (ex-ante) analysis of public policy effects. It comprises the following stages:
- The analysis of the existing state – the situational analysis + additional analyses – they are used to collect and analyse all the relevant information on the situation in a public policy sector, for problem identification, and for understanding what needs to be changed. For the analysis of public policies various analysing techniques are used: the analysis of interested parties, the analysis of the state-of-affairs (SWOT), the analysis of the environment (PESTLE), and the analysis of the problem. In practice, several of these are carried out simultaneously.
- Problem identification, desired changes – through which it is ascertained whether there is a problem in an area and what the causes and consequences of the problem are, i.e. the change that needs to be attained in an area is identified. A precise definition of a problem/a desired change enables the defining of adequate objectives and the defining of best measures for the implementation of public policies.
- Definition of general and specific objectives, as well as of the indicators through which the degree of achievement of objectives will be measured.
- Identification of public policy options, i.e. possible measures or sets of measures for reaching the objectives. This goes to say that the Government or local self-government units review/examine whether the desired change can be reached through adoption and implementation of a regulation, or through a financial incentive, or a public investment, etc.
- The analysis of the effects of these options – whereby for each option costs and benefits are analysed as they will affect the citizens, the economy, the environment, the national budget, and the administration, but also the risks inherent in the implementation of these options.
- The selection of an optimal option or an optimal combination of analysed options, which means a conclusion has been reached that only one type of measure does not suffice. For example, in practice, this means that the Government, apart from enforcing a new regulation, can also decide to carry out an information campaign so as to facilitate the implementation of the regulation.
- Identification of resources for carrying out the selected public policy option, the monitoring of implementation, and the evaluation of its effects. The analysis of effects of a public policy is coupled with an intensive consultation process. The more comprehensive and transparent it is, the greater the chances for efficient formulation, adoption, and implementation of a given policy.
Consultations involve the participation of (target) groups to which a public policy directly relates, other interested parties, and the professional public before the start and during the process of development and formulation of public policies. Consultations include citizens and business entities, associations of citizens or business entities, and other organisations of the civil society, science and research, professional, and other organisations, as well as representatives of state administration bodies and local governments. Consultations are carried out in a transparent manner and with a view to collecting data and views of interested parties with regard to a problem that has to be addressed or to a change that needs to be made through a public policy. Various techniques are used to carry out the consultations: focus groups, round tables, semi-structured interviews, panels, surveys, and the collecting of written comments.
Consultations are not to be mixed with public debates. Consultations serve to come to the best possible solutions in the course of planning in a participative (joint) manner and thus to facilitate the implementation of measures of public policy documents and/or regulations. Consultations are a continuous process that can be carried out in a formal or informal way in all the stages of preparation planning or the very preparation of public policy documents and/or regulations. A public debate is compulsory for system-related laws and those regulations marked by a responsible Government committee but it can also be carried out during the preparation of strategic documents. As different from consultations, a public debate is carried out within clearly defined limits before the very adoption of public policy documents and regulations. The public debate is not and should not be a substitute for consultations. The objective of the public debate and the consultations is the same, and that is to prepare the best possible legal solutions or strategic documents that, when implemented, will best serve the interest of citizens and the economy.
Being a special organisation and an expert institution of the Government, the Public Policy Secretariat does the analyses, identifies the needs, and forwards initiatives for the development of strategic documents through which public policies are formulated. It ensures the alignment of proposals of these strategic documents and provides the assessment on whether the very process of public policy definition has been carried out in a quality manner. This means that the PPS checks whether the prior analysis of effects has been done in a quality way and whether it contains all the necessary information on how much a policy will cost the state, the citizens, and the business sector, and what its specific benefits are so that the costs could be justified. It also checks whether the process of consultations has been carried out in a transparent and participative manner.
- to provide support for the definition of Government priorities in the realisation of strategic objectives as well as to monitor the results of the achievement of objectives and to coordinate the implementation of certain public policies;
- to provide analytical support for the planning of strategic objectives and to monitor the effects of Government public policies;
- to support the maintenance of the quality of public policies and regulations with the help of the mechanism for evaluating the quality of public policy and regulatory impact assessments;
- to provide support for the maintenance of coherence of the entire planning system and consistency of the content of Government strategic documents;
PPS activities target:
- establishment of the norms and methodologies for the planning system,
- providing expert support to state administration bodies in the process of public policy creation and analyses, if needed
- systemic involvement of the research community and analysts from outside the public administration in the process of public policy creation.
- the upgrading of capacities in the area of public policy management through regular multi-annual programmes of trainings in state administration (hundreds of trainings into planning techniques, the analysis and usage of data, the analysis of policy effects, monitoring and evaluation, etc.).
The PPS has developed:
- a draft Law on the Planning System of the Republic of Serbia
- the Strategy for Regulatory Reform and the Improvement of the System of Public Policy Management, anda systemic simplification of procedures through the establishment of a public single Registry of administrative procedures for the business sector
- the mechanism for quality management on the basis of facts, reliable data, results, and analyses – through the development and realization of the Action Plan for the Implementation of the Government Programme
- the system of coordination in the development of national programmes of: economic reforms, the fight against the black economy, the improvement of the position on the Doing Business list of the World Bank, and
- horizontal coordination of reforms of public policies in the business sector, the science, and the labour market through the World Bank Project ‘Competitiveness and Jobs’.