Citizen Centric Public Policy Formation

Session Report Aasthaba Jadeja


Mr. V. Ramakrishnan started the session by comparing Public Policy as a compass and strategy as GPS. He says that policy has to be derived from strategy. Your strategy is to improve the life of the citizens and everything is derived from it, be it security, health, food, transport, etc. He says that in any public policy, the elements of economic dimensions, political requirements and social factors have to work in a synchronized manner. It is only at the interface of all these aspects, that actually defines what a citizen is.

He then goes on to list all the possible customers of a policy and questions whether we claim to know what their expectations are. He says that a rich man will not have the same expectations as a poor man. And then contemplates whether the policies should address just the tax bracket of 22% or should it also address the bottom most section of the pyramid, what are their expectations and desires and are these fixed. He says that this is nothing called a static public policy, it has to continuously evolve.

Then there exists an international dimension where we look at what the regional neighbors expect and what they seek. Some of the important things they want are trade and security among others. Next comes the international community that seeks to promote global harmony and well-being. The four basic divisions into which the citizens are divided according to their economic status include the people below the poverty line, the lower middle class, the upper middle class and the super rich.

He says that when expectations of the general public are met, it promotes satisfaction. Expectations is a hope, a desire that something good will address the wants and needs. Mathematically, Satisfaction is the difference between performance and expectations. This also ought to be the purpose and focus of public policy.

Wants and Needs

Mr. Ramakrishnan explained the disconnect between the expectations and what is delivered. When the state does not understand the common people’s expectations, they tend to weigh them down with taxes. He suggests we separate the needs from wants, look at the customer value proposition and the customer value migration.

This was quantified first by Abraham Maslow, in the form of a pyramid with five layers. These layers are physiological needs like food, air, clothing, shelter, etc, needs that are required by people of all economic backgrounds of which class they belong to. Above that come safety, ie. the need for security of health, resources, employment, body, family, etc. Next in the pyramid comes the need for love/belonging when talking about relations of family, friendships or sexual intimacy. Above that lies esteem that includes self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others and respect by others. At the very top of the pyramid lays self-actualization which is very

unique and abundant in India, which includes morality, creativity, problem solving, lack of prejudice and acceptance of facts.

He then says that the top two layers affect the quality of life and comprise the wants of the people, while the last three affect the quality of living and comprise the needs of the people. He then says that the needs are non-negotiable, while the wants are optional and are also very difficult to quantify.

Value Proposition Framework

If one has to work into public policy, one cannot separate it from its outcomes. “What has to be delivered to whom and at what cost”. The image and the brand equity of the policy maker is affected by the value that they deliver and at what cost. He says that unless a nation grows profitably, there will be inflation which is detrimental growth.

Value proposition is a clear set of customer benefiting attributes, a value or cost benefit that a customer gets, a quality framework that is meaningful to the customer, a time and reach dimension that will have an impact on the quality of life and living. It also includes how the relationship benefits the customer, the image of the group presenting the budget to the customers and how technology can be leveraged for the customer’s benefit. And the most important thing here is to remember that it begins and end with the customer, who in this case are the citizens.

We also have to understand that the value proposition of all the main players that belong to the different class backgrounds are not the same. A person belonging to the upper classes will not have the same needs as a person belonging to below poverty line when it comes to security or any other needs.

Budget of 2020

Mr. Ramakrishnan used the budget 2020 to explore how public policy has the potential to shape well being and prosperity in a country. He gave a little context into the history by telling that the person who gave India’s first budget in 1860 was James Wilson, the founder of Standard Chartered Bank. He says that one cannot have economic and social stability without political stability and vice versa. This points to the fact that policy making has to consider the aspect of homeostasis in order to meet the expectations of the citizens.

He says that the budget is a roadmap, a very planning oriented process. It can also be considered as an income and expense wishlist, an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time.

Relevant Highlights of the 2020 Budget

The prominent themes of the budget included Aspirational India with better standard of living and access to health, education and better jobs for all the sections of the society. In addition to

that, economic development for all and the creation of a caring society which is both humane and compassionate.

The major components of Aspirational India are agriculture, irritation and rural development; wellness, water and sanitation and education and skills. The Action plan included 16 action points for agriculture, irrigation and rural development. Focus on the blue economy which includes fisheries – production and export, growing algae, seaweed as manure and nutrition and its conservation.

Focus on women and children, social welfare and on cultural and tourism. India is also securing the future by being one of the leaders to take steps against climate change. We have some of the largest solar parks in the world now and we are also moving towards a governance of accountability and integrity.

As a consequence of the budget and policies, the GDP per capita has had a sustained growth since 2014.

Measuring the Effectiveness of a Policy

Mr. Ramakrishnan suggests the policy makers look at the quality of life and quality of living of the citizens through per capita income and the Maslow’s pyramid. They must also identify the drivers of growth and development which include political integrity, economic reliability and social relevance which are enabled by the federal structures taht address the market realities, states as the take care of the citizens, institutions that are outcome focused and private entities that address the job creation aspect.

We must then consider the determinants of such policies which include strategic framework, policy formulation, coordination skills, policy implementation, executive competence, resource management and continuous improvement. One must also build a strong foundation that includes your culture, strategic competencies, information and architecture and leadership style. Culture includes belief system, values, purpose and vision. Strategic competencies include outcome definition, program management and legal knowledge. Leadership style includes mission management, risk management and creation of a learning environment.


In conclusion, Mr. V. Ramakrishnan’s insights on citizen-centric public policy formation emphasize the critical role of aligning policies with the diverse expectations and needs of a nation’s citizens. He highlights the importance of distinguishing between wants and needs, drawing upon Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and stresses that the core purpose of public policy should be to bridge the gap between performance and expectations to promote citizen satisfaction.

In essence, Mr. Ramakrishnan’s insights highlight the multifaceted nature of public policy and the intricate balance required to meet the expectations and needs of citizens while fostering

growth, development, and well-being in a nation. Effective policy formation demands a comprehensive understanding of citizens’ diverse needs and aspirations, an unwavering commitment to their satisfaction, and a continuous drive for improvement.

Acknowledgement: Aasthaba Jadeja is a research intern at IMPRI.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organisation.

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  • Samprikta Banerjee

    IMPRI, a startup research think tank, is a platform for pro-active, independent, non-partisan and policy-based research. It contributes to debates and deliberations for action-based solutions to a host of strategic issues. IMPRI is committed to democracy, mobilization and community building.

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