Tango launches Policy Dialogues

On Tuesday 23 August 2011, TANGO will launch its maiden Policy Dialogues forum at its head office in Kanifing. The Policy Dialogues are quarterly interactive discussion forums aimed at bringing together experts from policy institutions, development organizations, the academia, civil society and the private sector. The focus of the discussions is public policy as the foundation for national governance and development. Policy-making is often seen as consisting of a series of steps involving identification, formulation, implementation and evaluation. Policy-making has been defined as: ‘the process by which governments translate political vision into programmes and actions to deliver outcomes-desired changes in the real world.’ A policy is an action and tool of a government body that has the legislative, political and financial authority to address the concrete needs of the people. Public policy is the first attempt by a public authority to address national issues. While policy-making is a preserve of the government and particularly of the executive and bureaucracy, the realities of modern politics enable interest groups to play a significant role in the process. Since policy-making is a highly information intensive process, those with information and knowledge can play an important role. And therefore CSOs can have a role to play in public policy-making. The shift in policy-making being a restrictive specialist/policy maker’ activity to much broader constellations of actors focusing on the processes of negotiation and contestation and on networks, alliances and coalitions through which policy is formulated brings participation crucial to the process. Policy making as an interactive process argues for an ‘actor perspective’ emphasizing the need to take account of the opinions of individuals, agencies and social groups that have a stake in how a system evolves. This approach promotes an interaction and sharing of ideas between those who make policy and those who are influenced most directly by the outcomes. Policies are translated into law, institutions, decisions and action; hence the quality of policy reflects the quality of governance and development. However in order to obtain quality policy, i.e. from design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, it is necessary that various stakeholders participates in its processes.

The Policy Dialogues therefore seek to promote engagement and participation between the stakeholders on the basis that while public policy emanates from the government, yet a public policy is a public property aimed at addressing public concerns that require popular participation. Consequently the more actors engage in public policy making and tracking, the more qualitative will be the policy. Increasingly it is becoming evident that the end result of governance and development is about behaviour change, i.e. to bring about transformations in the lives of the people. Roads, buildings and health services are not ends in themselves; rather they are means to effect positive changes in the lives of citizens. This is all the more reason why public policy requires public engagement, and monitoring and evaluation so that policy making and development service will be evidenced-based and owned by the people. The budget is a tool for the operationalization of the government policies on economic, social and political development. The budget tells what is top priority for the government indicated by the amount of allocation that goes to a particular sector. Aside from that, to ensure that budgets lead to changes, it is necessary that spending, as well as revenue are monitored to ensure judicious use of resources, performance of individuals and institutions in charge of the budget and the sector, and creation of systems of data collection to inform project design, implementation and evaluation.

Over the years, NGOs have been making contributions to the policy environment of the Gambia at various levels and sectors. The Policy Dialogues are therefore part of the up-streeam contributions and aimed a further improving NGO contribution to the development of the Gambia. In this maiden edition, we are focusing on national development outputs and outcomes, i.e., the inputs and activities invested and what they produce (goods and services), and what changes in the lives of citizens (outcomes and impacts) have been realized from these inputs and outputs. The discussions will therefore look at the issue of national development from various perspectives with a view to assessing the situation and propose new ideas and initiatives necessary for the transformation of lives for the better given the fact that development is a continuous process.

Maiden Edition

The theme of the first TANGO Policy Dialogues is, Rethinking National Development – From Outputs to Outcomes’. The aim of the discussion is to engage in an analytical overview of the Gambia’s development processes and roadmap from independence to date in order to highlight the successes registered and the challenges encountered so as to chart a way forward. The discussion will focus on the key areas of climate change and the private sector and how they impact on the economy. This will raise the question as to how well the economy has created the necessary enabling environment to reflect the fact that the private sector is considered the main engine of growth and responsible for the generation of national wealth and employment. Furthermore, the discussion is also expected to assess the level of preparedness of the Gambia as far as the effects of climate change are concerned.

The Policy Dialogues therefore provide a unique opportunity for policy and decision makers, researchers, and students, development workers and journalists and indeed the general populace in accessing relevant and up-to-date data on key development issues about the Gambia and the world. It seeks to promote knowledge creation and dissemination and offers the Government and NGOs the opportunity to also engage meaningfully in the quest for results-based national development. TANGO wishes to utilize the Policy Dialogues to enhance the participation of NGOs in influencing public policy as we conduct evidence-based advocacy and monitoring.

The presenters and discussion points:

  1. Keynote Speaker, Mr. Benjamin A. Roberts, Director GIEPA

Topic: ‘Overview of national development – Challenges, Prospects and Lessons’

In this paper we want to take a surgical analysis of the Gambia’s development process over the past 45 years of independence within the context of regional and global political and economic circumstances. We are convinced that development has to be approached from an impassioned and objective point of view in order to place the society on a realistic path to development and transformation.

  1. Hon. Mamburay Njie, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs

Topic: ‘Beyond PRSP: What lessons to learn for the prospects and challenges in the attainment of PAGE’.

For the past 10 years, the Gambia has embarked on a series of PRSPs aimed at reducing poverty. This has been aligned with the MDGs to address basic social needs. Now that we are about to launch a new cycle, PAGE, we envisage that the paper will take an analytical look at the gains registered and challenges encountered in the implementation of the PRSP and still on the road to the MDGs, and what prospects does PAGE offer the Gambia to further improve the lives of the people.

  1. Mr. Momodou B Sarr, Executive Director, National Environment Agency

Topic: ‘Climate Change: What policy, institutional and technical requirements are necessary for adaptability as the way forward for the Gambia’.

The Gambia is already confronted with the effects of climate change. While the global response to this phenomenon is yet to be consistent, developing countries especially are being urged to consider adaptability given their lack of capacity and resources to prevent the effects, but rather to seek ways and means of mitigating the damages caused by climate change. Needless to say the effects of climate change affect the poor more than anyone else. Thus we envisage that the paper will look at the circumstances of the Gambia vis-à-vis climate change and national development priorities as set out in the erstwhile PRSP and the new PAGE.

  1. Mr. Bai Matarr Drammeh, President, Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Topic: ‘The private sector and national development – Are they compatible?

The private sector has been considered as the engine of growth as the Gambia pursues an open free market system. However the Gambia continues to face challenges in creating a viable productive sector in order to raise exports, as well as generate a robust local investment and economic growth so as to create jobs and incomes and ultimately address national development objectives as enshrined in Vision 2020. From an analytical point of view, how well is the private sector, which is profit-oriented playing its role? Is the environment conducive enough and what is needed to create and further improve that environment?