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1. Introduction
2. The changing world of agricultural policy implementation
3. Agricultural policy implementation: The policy delivery system
4. Studying policy delivery systems: The structure-conduct-performance paradigm
5. Where next for studying policy delivery systems?

Frances Sandiford and Ed Rossmiller2

(¹ Paper presented at the Agricultural Economics Society Conference, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 27-30 March 1996.)

(²Agricultural Policy Consultant and former Chief, Comparative Agricultural Development Service, FAO. This paper presents the purely personal views and interpretations of the authors. In no way does it reflect the opinion or position of FAO.)

There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip. (Trad.)

1. Introduction

This paper is the work of two agricultural policy economists who have been working in the development business advising governments on various aspects of agricultural policy. Much has been changing in the policy arena, domestically and internationally, emphasizing the dynamic nature of agricultural policies and the need for good information to guide the policy process. Our experiences have underlined the need for us to look more closely at how policy is implemented: there's many a slip 'twixt the Treasury cup and the farmer's lip. But how is the spillage occurring, and who is lapping up the drops? Does it matter, and, if so, to whom?

These questions are not new, but, as this paper shows, they have been given a different slant and a new imperative by changes that have occurred in the policy implementation environment over the last few years. We are therefore trying to develop a framework for structured thinking about policy implementation that will assist us to do our policy advisory job better. Although our approach is necessarily pragmatic, we are having to re-evaluate much that we have hitherto taken for granted in the context of our economic training and political culture. The framework being developed awaits field-testing, as well as the further development of the more conceptual side of the work. By means of this paper, we hope to stimulate more agricultural policy economists to rise to the practical and theoretical challenges posed.

2. The changing world of agricultural policy implementation

The 1980s and 1990s have seen radical changes in several developed countries in the form of the separation or distancing of policy advice, policy formation and policy implementation. This has perhaps been most noticeable in that special political tradition and culture known as the Westminster system,³ but has also occurred in Denmark and Sweden, in terms of the changing role of the civil service, and the separation of the different functions formerly encompassed by one government department. Understanding why and how this has occurred matters because some of the new arguments are being used by the IMF and the World Bank in their advice to developing countries and the transition economies, which is then incorporated into loan conditionalities.

(3 The Westminster system of government and variants thereof are found in Britain, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and many former colonies. It is based on a well-defined relationship between the executive, the legislature and the electorate, and between government and the bureaucracy - the civil service. It is characterized by a ministerial executive and ministerial control of departments of state. Ministers are responsible for their departments with which they have a two-way communication: advice is passed upwards from the department to the minister and ultimately the cabinet, and decisions for implementation are passed downwards back to the department. All parties are assumed to share a common goal - the national interest.)

The story begins with public choice theory. Modern welfare economics has largely focused on the normative theory of public choice, which leads to policy recommendations that will increase some measure of social welfare. The strong Pareto criterion, and the somewhat weaker Kaldor-Hicks and Scitovsky criteria, provided strict standards for policy evaluation. But the policies actually adopted have often been considerably different from those advocated by economists on welfare grounds. This discrepancy tended to be seen by economists as a failure by politicians to resist pressure from interested parties acting in their private interests rather than the public welfare (Martin 1990).

Given such a normative basis, the approach of economists to policy implementation has often been to analyse policy impacts. The analyst usually assumes implicitly that the set of policy measures is embedded in a system in which they always work perfectly and do exactly what they are intended to do. If the analysis determines that the policy objectives will not be met, or that there are unwanted adverse consequences, it is the fault of the unique configuration of policy measures. The solution is to configure a different set of measures, usually much more complex in order to negate the potentially adverse effects of Plan A, designated Plan B.

The political tradition and culture within which this normative economic analysis in fact takes place tends to be viewed as a malfunctioning black box that is somewhere "out there". One outcome has been a huge gulf between independent agricultural economic analysts who stand outside the black box, and agricultural economists in advisory positions who work inside the black box.4 (Standen (1983), for example, expressed concern about advisory economists being any longer able to find a professional home in the Australian Agricultural Economics Society.)

(4International policy advisors are a different animal in that they do not work inside a single black box for very long, but must develop the ability to work inside any black box very quickly. They are therefore closer to the second group, but their training and experience is often as members of the first group.)

In contrast to the normative "national interest" theory of public choice, the modern positive theory takes a private interest view of the policy process and provides a framework for analysing the roles of politicians, bureaucrats and interest groups in an attempt to explain governments' actions (Martin 1990, and Johnson 1994). Instead of seeing pressures to further private interests as an obstacle to the optimal functioning of the political process, they are seen as rational actions by individuals and groups to improve their own welfare.

Against this background the traditional role of the economic policy analyst is at best diminished, at worst non-existent (but see Standen 1983).

However, positive public choice theory was hijacked by the normative brigade, including fiscal bureaucrats, and used to justify and shape major reorganization of the institutional and ideological structure of the public sector as part of an effort to control unsustainable fiscal deficits (Schwartz 1996). Public choice theory stresses the self-interest of politicians and bureaucrats who forge alliances with various interest groups to further their own ends. Private interests are therefore pursued to the detriment of the social good. On this view of the world, the role of the state should be minimized,5 and the power of its agents (politicians, agencies, state-run monopolies) to engage in rent-seeking activities must be curbed. Since government departments have a vested interest in their own survival, and expansion, so the argument runs, they should not both advise policy makers and implement policy6.

(5 In the American political system with its highly politicized civil service and pre-existing separation of policy responsibilities, the emphasis has been much more on reducing the role of the state per se under the guise of reducing the budget (otherwise known as getting the politicians out of politics).)

(6 For quite different reasons, membership of the EU has also led to a distancing of policy advice, policy making and policy implementation, with key agricultural policy objectives being decided in Brussels on the basis of discussions and horse-trading between the governments (advised by their national policy advisers) and the European Commission (with their own policy advisers), and implemented by the member states.

The consequences of the above-mentioned processes for the political system and public accountability are far-reaching, and way beyond the scope of this paper. What concerns us is the profound impact that the thinking has had on policy implementation. In particular, the reorganizers have attempted to institute markets and market disciplines for the provision of government-produced goods and services. The four key changes that were introduced (Schwartz op. cit.) were: (a) to impose private-sector labour practices on public sector labour (to let managers manage); (b) to manage by results with output rather than input budgeting; (c) to concentrate strategic decision-making into small teams (to manage the managers); and (d) to abolish or undermine a monopoly over service provision. Agriculture has not been excluded. In the UK, for example, the delivery of agricultural advisory services has been fully commercialized, but the process leading to this took the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service (ADAS) through a series of staged reforms of service provision (Dancey 1993); in New Zealand, the agricultural ministry's science functions have been transferred to ten new crown research institutes, and the extension service has been sold off to a private sector company; in many developed countries, user fees are now being charged for the provision of agricultural extension, diagnostic and laboratory services.

Throughout the developing world, these ideas are being used by international advisers to inform the policy advice they give without adequate consideration of the specific and very different conditions pertaining in those countries. Thus we hear of policy advice to introduce "the new managerialism" into the public service in countries that have no recent experience of any western-style business management anywhere in the economy. Loan conditionalities include massive reductions in the size of the public sector and concomitant delivery of services by the private sector where no functioning private sector yet exists.

To assert that because public servants will act to further their private interests rather than the public good, they should be replaced by or subjected to the disciplines of the private sector, which is admitted to act in its own private interest, seems a bizarre chain of reasoning. There are indeed compelling reasons for concern about government delivery of agricultural policies (Roberts 1995), especially in the area of service provision, but also in the delivery of financial benefits such as subsidized credit or inputs. Firstly, public employees often have little incentive to deliver policies effectively and efficiently, especially as regards timeliness. Secondly, incentives to further private interests are often strong - perhaps strong enough to be realized as corruption. Thirdly, public provision of services that can in principle be provided by the private sector can stifle private sector development. Lastly, public service provision has an inherent tendency to be ineffective (i.e., to do the wrong thing (Drucker 1990)) because it is supply, not demand, driven. Yet privatizing policy implementation or "marketizing" public sector implementation will not automatically overcome these problems - after all, public and private sector actors are all human beings, and the activities of the private sector are far from being uniformly transparent or efficient. And both public and private sector organizations that rely on policy delivery to justify or financially support their existence have a strong private interest in the continuation of that policy.

The separation or distancing of policy implementation from policy making and policy advice challenges the policy economist to cease taking it as a given that lies outside his or her proper sphere of responsibility.7 Additional impetus is provided by the new institutional economics, which asserts that institutions matter and that they are susceptible to analysis (Williamson 1994), and therefore complements the contribution made by public choice theory. The rest of this paper focuses on agricultural policy implementation as a subject for systematic study in its own right.

(7 Agricultural policy implementation has not been addressed systematically in the literature, although there is some comparative description in Krueger 1992. In contrast, the explanation of agricultural policy choices and the role of policy advisers have received some attention (Rausser 1982, Standen 1983, Martin 1990, Krueger 1992, Swinnen and van der Zee 1993, and Johnson 1994). Of particular interest are Martin's examination of recent policy reforms in Australia in the light of extensions to the private interest model and Johnson's ex post examination of 18 New Zealand agricultural policies to see whether, judging by six criteria, a particular policy decision supported the private interest argument. Only five policies were found to be unambiguously private interest. The rest were rather mixed, but with the orientation much more towards the public interest.)

3. Agricultural policy implementation: The policy delivery system

The unit for studying agricultural policy implementation is the policy delivery system, which we define as being the total modality of implementing a given policy. The first question to be addressed is what constitutes an agricultural policy delivery system. Our definition includes the unique set of institutions, individuals, processes and rules that together deliver the benefits of the policy to a target group and enable control to be exercised to ensure adherence to the rules of access.

As such, policy delivery systems are almost infinitely variable. Consider a couple of examples. Assume a policy objective of increasing farm incomes, and that the instrument selected is an import tax. The policy delivery system consists of border controls and tax collection, and the domestic market, which acts as the mechanism for transmitting the price effect to the farm gate. The extent to which the policy delivery system succeeds in achieving the policy objective will depend, inter alia, on the extent to which the border controls are policed and the degree of price transmission by the market.

Now assume the same objective of increasing farm incomes but through the provision of extension advice to increase farm productivity. The policy delivery system in this case includes (but is by no means limited to) the transmission of relevant and useful technical, economic and business information, which could be by government or private agencies, or some combination. Our understanding of policy delivery systems encompasses all types of agricultural policies be they pricing policies or service provision, whether they involve public goods, private goods or something in between. By looking at policy implementation as a delivery system, we are able to cope with the complexity and sheer diversity of agricultural policy implementation schemes. Note that failures of policy delivery systems to implement agricultural policies are not limited to developing countries, and the issues raised have widespread applicability.

4. Studying policy delivery systems: The structure-conduct-performance paradigm

We are looking towards a framework for structured thinking about policy delivery systems that can assist us in making the policy advice we give more relevant, reliable and workable. This means above all that it must be context-specific: it is the analytical framework that we need to be able to carry with us to each country, not the results of our using it elsewhere8. The corollary to this is that we must gain an understanding of the specific context within which we are using the framework. Some feeling for history is helpful - the legacies of the past affect how things work in the present, and may constrain what is possible. Thus, for example, the Ottoman Empire, Soviet-style communism and colonial rule had different consequences for the type of bureaucracy that has been inherited, as well as for the legal system and attitudes to the law. Geography, politics and macroeconomics also need to inform our understanding of the situation in the country and its relationships with other countries. A country analysis is therefore the overall starting point, and might need further development if an alternative to the existing policy delivery system as a whole is indicated.

(8 It is perhaps worth stressing that we are not seeking to develop a prescriptive model of wide applicability based on hypothetical-deductive reasoning. While detailed study of several policy delivery systems in different countries might enable more general inferences to be drawn that could help to improve the analytical framework, that is not the object of the exercise, which is to assist in studying the particular case.)

In order to structure our thinking about policy delivery systems, we take as our point of departure some of the ideas from the structure-conduct-performance approach to analysing markets developed since the 1930s in the industrial organization literature (McKie 1970, and Phillips 1970). At its simplest, the market structure-conduct-performance paradigm attempts to evaluate market performance in the form of output and prices in relation to firms' conduct (behaviour) and the market structure of the industry (which are themselves inter-related). This approach has more recently been adapted to assess the behaviour and performance of governments rather than firms (Siamwalla and Haykin 1983) in the world rice market. Here, the structure of the world rice market is described as a thin residual market. The conduct of countries participating in the market is analysed to see how policies affect the traded volume, and the market structure. The performance of the market is then assessed in terms of stability, static and dynamic efficiency, and income distribution.

In adapting the structure-conduct-performance paradigm to the analysis of policy delivery systems, which takes us beyond the neo-classical criteria for studying market behaviour, we incorporate an exogenous9 reference point: the policy objective. Our framework must therefore allow for the definition of policy objectives, a description of system structure, an analysis of system conduct, and an assessment of the system's performance. In the following sections, we address each of these separately and discuss the major points that need to be covered at each stage. Reference to the four country examples and associated flow diagrams in the appendix may be of assistance in elaborating some of the points.10

(9 As the discussion in Section 4.1 suggests, the analysis could have the effect of endogenizing the objective to some extent. This is only likely to be a problem for studying the policy delivery system if at some stage the goalposts are moved from the rugby pitch to the football field.)

(10 References to the examples in the appendix are abbreviated in this section as follows: = Korea: Agricultural Statistics Collection = Korea: Agricultural Input Supply = Sierra Leone: Marketing of Export Crops)

4.1 Defining policy objectives

The first stage in using the structure-conduct-performance framework to study a particular policy delivery system is to obtain a working and workable definition of the policy objective, and to obtain the government's agreement to that definition. This is usually not easy for two reasons.

Firstly, most policy objectives as stated in political speeches and preambles to legislation are of a God, mother, country and apple pie nature. They are broad, ambiguous, sometimes contradictory. The job, and the art, is to infer the precision from such documents and from interviews with policy makers, bureaucrats and others. Even then, one might still get it wrong because politicians and bureaucrats, for a variety of reasons including the furtherance of private interests, might want to maintain the ambiguity. Perhaps in countries that have introduced arms-length policy implementation and the new managerialism, the management targets as determined might be thought to serve as an adequate interpretation of the policy objective - but the analyst should take a properly sceptical view of this and avoid creating a new black box that then avoids proper investigation.11

(11 Performance targets might be too narrowly defined to be an adequate proxy for the overall objective. They might also have been set to exclude an important but unstated part of the political agenda: for example, who takes the responsibility in the UK if a Chief Executive fulfils his performance targets, but does or fails to do something that causes political problems for the minister "responsible"? Or they might not take account of quality.)

Secondly, the stated objective, even if precisely defined, may have little or nothing to do with the real objective. Witness, for example, the (real) political objective versus the (stated) agricultural objective in the delivery of agricultural inputs by the National Agricultural Cooperatives Federation in Korea (

All of this means that defining the policy objective is not a one-off act; rather it is an iterative and interactive process. The definition needs to be questioned throughout the analysis. If something does not fit (such as the fertilizer grey market in Korea,, we need to think about it and retrace our steps - again and again if necessary.

4.2 Describing structure

The structure component of the analysis focuses on the system through which the policy is implemented to transfer the benefits from wheresoever they derive to the hands of the targeted recipients. It is both a description of the policy delivery system - institutions, instruments and processes - and an analysis of the functions that are apparently intended to be performed at each point and by each component of the system. We say "apparently intended" because again one must take a sceptical approach given the potential for hidden agendas and private interests in the working of the system.

In looking at structure, the following points should be covered:

· a description of the policy instruments and how they complement or conflict with each other;

· a description of the formal and informal rules, regulations and safeguards built into or assumed to be inherent in the system in the attempt to ensure that the benefits flow to the targeted recipients and to monitor the eligibility of the participants, and other rules for compliance;

· a description of the institutions with functional responsibilities within the system and the specific functions they are supposed to perform; and

· an analysis of the functions supposed to be performed, including the processes, the actions and the actors involved in the working of the system.

The structure component of the analysis is heavily descriptive and should reflect the system as it is apparently intended to be, and to operate. On the basis of the findings, a flow diagram can be prepared (see, and

4.3 Analysing conduct

The conduct (or behaviour) component of the analysis covers how the institutions and individuals in the system operate to ensure and monitor compliance and effect delivery of the benefits to the targeted recipients. Or how they might be operating, given the opportunities, pressures and constraints, to deliver outcomes that are inconsistent with the original objectives of the policy. This is an analysis of the way the system works in practice -the actual as opposed to intended functions performed, where and how private or extraneous interests and activities affect the way the system works.

The conduct component is strongly investigative and analytical. It covers the same points as the structure component, but from a different standpoint. The aim is to lay out how the system really works as opposed to how it is apparently intended to work - to pinpoint where in the system and how, with what consequences for outcomes, actual conduct or behaviour affects system operation. On the basis of the findings of the conduct component, a modified flow diagram can be prepared to illustrate how and where the apparent intentions and the real world diverge (see, and

4.4 Assessing performance

Finally, the performance component of the analysis is an assessment of how well the policy delivery system meets the original objective of the policy in terms of delivering the scheduled benefits to the targeted recipients. We propose four criteria for this assessment of performance: effectiveness, efficiency, enforceability, and equity, each of which is elaborated below. A note of caution: these criteria are not tidy categories of mutual exclusivity; they overlap and interact. The points that need to be examined under each heading will differ from case to case, as will the relative importance of each criterion. The issues raised here are indicative rather than exhaustive, and the practitioner must necessarily work on a fairly ad hoc basis.

· Effectiveness:

Doing the right thing. This is the top-level criterion in that it is the overall measure of whether the policy objective is being achieved, which is why agreement about the policy objective is so vital. Effectiveness means that the system operates in such a way as to be successful in producing the desired result, i.e., it is capable of delivering the intended benefits to the targeted recipients and, indeed, does so. A necessary, but not sufficient, condition for effectiveness is that the system is capable of delivery. To be fully effective, the system must actually deliver. The other three performance criteria-efficiency, enforceability and equity - are second-level criteria that jointly contribute to overall effectiveness.

One of the attributes of system effectiveness is whether the system is structured and behaves to generate management information about itself. This information is needed not only to assess the workings of the policy delivery system per se but also to provide feedback to policy advisors and policy makers,

i.e., as an input into the dynamic agricultural policy process. On the assumption that it does not, or that the performance study is intended in part to check the accuracy of the information that is produced, the study of structure and conduct needs to be carried out such that the data and information needed to assess effectiveness are collected.

· · Efficiency:

Doing the thing right. This criterion looks at the cost of delivering the policy to the targeted recipients. It is contingent upon effectiveness: what if the system spends the benefits but the targeted beneficiaries do not receive them? In this construct, efficiency has no real meaning if effectiveness is not fulfilled. In other words, does it mean anything if the wrong thing is done right?

There are a number of things to consider in the context of efficiency.

The first is the need to make a clear distinction between the costs of the policy itself, and the costs of delivering the policy. The former is not an efficiency question as far as studying the policy delivery system per se is concerned, if the source of the benefits is external to the system. However, in some cases such as input supply or output marketing organizations (see, the policy delivery system has to generate as well as distribute the policy benefits. Efficiency therefore needs to consider efficiency of benefit creation and also efficiency of benefit delivery. In these cases only should "leakage" of benefits be examined under the efficiency criterion: normally it should come under the other three performance criteria. In contrast, "leakage" of delivery costs is always an efficiency issue in this framework (e.g., if a delivery charge is being paid for a service or benefit that is not actually being delivered or is being delivered at a lower cost than is claimed).

Then there is the total cost of policy delivery. There is generally a trade-off between the level of effectiveness and the implementation cost. For example, additional personnel to monitor compliance adds to the cost but improves effectiveness. In principle, one could add compliance officers until 100 percent coverage was almost unavoidable (assuming they do their job) or until the benefits saved from non-targeted recipients by the last officer added was equal to the cost of the officer, although in practice this would normally be difficult to achieve. Providing information to policy makers about the trade-offs involved might be useful so that the definition of the policy objective, the choice of policy instruments or the policy delivery system as a whole can be re-evaluated. In efficiency terms, the main question to be addressed is whether the total cost of achieving a given level of effectiveness is as low as is reasonably possible. For instance, some information can be gained about the level of efficiency (including delivery cost "leakage") of the organizations involved in the delivery system (see Krueger 1992), even if this is rather partial and subjective. And all other things being equal, economics can throw some light on the relative efficiency of the policy instruments being used. The ceteris paribus assumption is critical because some instruments are just not usable, i.e., ineffective, in some circumstances, and others might have such high information needs that the true cost of using them would be astronomical.

One can also look at the unit costs of delivery, and whether there are economies or diseconomies of delivery in terms of the number of units delivered and the size of each unit. The delivery of credit subsidies is a case in point where the average cost of servicing a loan is largely invariant with the size of the loan. Total delivery costs can therefore be reduced by lending a larger sum to a mutually responsible group of farmers rather than several small loans to individual farmers (which would tend to increase effectiveness) or by lending larger sums to fewer large and medium-size farmers (which would tend to reduce effectiveness). Similar arguments apply to the delivery of extension services, but the question of quality then comes into the picture and whether, therefore, one is comparing like with like.

It follows that the efficiency incentives to achieve effectiveness depend in some cases on the way in which delivery costs are reimbursed - on a total cost or a unit cost basis. This is therefore another aspect of efficiency that the analysis must consider.

A major problem with assessing efficiency is that alternatives are not always available for comparison. One approach is to try to build efficiency in from the outset by putting policy delivery out to competitive tender. However, this has limited applicability in many countries, and has shown mixed results where it has been tried. In any event, it does not answer questions about the efficiency of an existing policy delivery system. There are occasions when proxy measures can be informative: for example, the financial health of a rural bank provides a measure of the efficiency with which the organization is being run, even though this does not answer questions about the effectiveness of credit delivery to the target group.

· · Enforceability:

The ability to make sure that the benefits reach the targeted beneficiaries, non-complying or unintended beneficiaries are excluded, and that benefits are not creamed off by intermediaries. Enforceability is not the same as enforcement, but is a pre-condition for it. Unenforceability could be de jure if the policy goes against formal rules of legality or constitutionality; or de facto if it is not in conformity with informal rules (see;13 or it will occur if society or the groups within society that count have formed a consensus that the values represented by the policy are bad and the rules are wrong (see Prohibition in the US, the poll tax in England, and milk quotas in Italy are examples.

(12Cases may be rare, but one can think of the legal position of a statutory marketing board under EU rules, or the constitutionality of certain types of land reform schemes.)

(13 For instance, the existence of informal but socially accepted property rights that are not enforceable at the formal legal level will nevertheless constitute a barrier to enforceability of policies that ignore their existence.)

Given enforceability, non-enforcement can take place for three main reasons (see Someone in the system does not want to enforce the rules, perhaps for private gain. Or the costs of enforcement - in time, skills or money - exceed the benefits. Or there could be inequitable access to the organs of enforcement.

· · Equity:

Ensuring consistent and impartial access under the rules to the benefits across the targeted recipients. Again, equity must be seen in the context of the objective of the policy itself. Equitable access does not mean equal access; the most inequitable thing that can be done is to treat unequals as equal. Equity is the assurance of equal opportunity to access to the benefits under the rules. If the potential beneficiary qualifies under the rules of the game access to the benefits is assured, if not, access is denied. One might question whether the rules themselves lead to an equitable result, but that is a different matter all together. As a performance criterion, equity must be assessed in the context of the given rules of access (see For example, if the system is set up to provide a fixed price support on ail units of production, large producers will benefit more than small producers. This is equitable given the rules - even though one might question that concept of equity in the grander scheme of things - as long as small producers are not refused access because of their smallness (or female-ness, political colour or some other irrelevant attribute) or because the unit costs of delivery to small producers are higher.

This interpretation of equity is concerned with the impartiality and consistency of the policy deliverer. From the point of view of the intended beneficiary, there is another equity consideration: the costs of access. If, for example, the agency that procures at a government-supported price has very few purchase points, those farmers located furthest away from the purchase points might face very high transport costs. Or information about the policy benefits and how to take advantage of them might be restricted to literate farmers or those with access to a radio (or Internet), imposing high search costs on some groups if the policy is to be accessible for them.

(14 The Milk Marketing Board (E&W) was a good example of 100 percent equity with regard to this aspect of access because of its statutory duty to collect milk from any farmer who complied with certain conditions.)

Assessing performance is obviously a complicated process, and will produce a great deal of information that needs to be assimilated purposively. We therefore need to be quite clear about what we want the process to lead to. This depends on the reason for the study being undertaken in the first place. One of the following three is probable:

- There are grounds for believing that the effectiveness of the system is inadequate, and what is required are recommendations for improving the working of the system, assuming that we find it to be capable of improvement, or for setting up an alternative system.

- The government wishes to change the policy instruments for reasons unconnected with the effectiveness of the delivery system, e.g., to comply with GATT/WTO commitments or to reduce the costs of the policy itself, and wants to know if an existing policy delivery system can be used.

- For ideological or budgetary reasons, changes to an existing policy delivery system are under consideration, e.g., the privatization of a parastatal marketing organization or a reduction in the number of public sector personnel who provide extension services.

One further point is worth making about analysing very complex systems. Suppose the policy objective is to increase agricultural productivity and total production of a particular commodity through the widespread adoption of higher-yielding varieties. There are many and varied components to a policy delivery system for achieving this objective. The best way of handling a case like this is to break the system up into sub-systems, each with its own imputed objective, for the purposes of structure-conduct-performance analysis. The assessment of performance will then need to cover each subsystem separately, and also the performance of the system as a whole.

5. Where next for studying policy delivery systems?

Our future work on studying policy delivery systems will need to concentrate on two distinct aspects: the practical and the conceptual, concurrently rather than consecutively because each aspect informs the other.

In practical terms, the ideas presented in the structure-conduct-performance framework for structured thinking about agricultural policy delivery systems need to be further developed through field-testing into a tool that can be used by agricultural policy consultants. Thus far, we have been able only to re-evaluate some of our past experiences in the light of the framework, as the examples in the appendix show. Even so, this has been of great assistance in identifying areas for consideration under each performance criterion. Our hope is to take the ideas presented in Section 4 of this paper as a basis for studying a number of different agricultural policies in one country in order to modify and improve the approach, and to prepare guidelines for its application, including a checklist of questions. Ideally, we should then undertake more field-work to refine the technique.

On the conceptual side, the most urgent need is to look into the performance criteria in greater depth and to use the insights from different disciplines, and from other perspectives in our own discipline in order to extend and develop our thinking about efficiency, enforceability and equity, and also structure and conduct. In this regard, the work on positive public choice theory and the new institutional economics (North 1994, Williamson 1994, Putnam 1994, Murrell 1994, Shaffer 1995) has an important contribution to make because of the insights offered into studying the behaviour of real-world institutions (and their structure) and individuals. The stress that the new institutional economics lays on context specificity is refreshing and encouraging for us as policy practitioners - who know only too well the importance of understanding the country-specific context and the dangers of trying to import ideas that have worked well in one place and time into another place and time. "The new institutional economics presents a polymorphic economic landscape, with a deep historical contingency underlying the development and the functionality of each institution. There is thus a need to examine that functionality within a particular historical, social, political and cultural context." (Murrell 1994.) Conversely, our practical work may be able to assist in applying some of those ideas to developing country economies.


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