Improving Public Policy: A North Pacific case study
An assessment of public policy processes in three Northern Pacific nations found that weak monitoring and oversight functions have eroded stakeholder confidence. According to key findings of the pilot study, recent crisis-level events, including fraud in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) public sector, bank failure in Palau, and major backlogs in infrastructure projects in Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), exposed critical policy gaps and weaknesses that have had severe economic and social impacts.
Improving public policy: A North Pacific case study 
is a summary of the five volume study report, recently concluded by the Pacific Institute of Public Policy (PiPP). The study, led by consultant Ben Graham and funded by the Asian Development Bank, gathered knowledge through desk research, in-country consultations with key stakeholders and a final strategy session, which brought together leaders from the three countries.
Assessing and Strengthening Policy Processes in RMI, FSM and Palau
- examine each country’s basic policy functions and processes and the broader policy systems that they make up;
- better understand how policy processes and the policy systems currently work in these countries;
- identify some potential strategies for strengthening policy processes and systems;
- and, select a final set of strategies that are deemed most feasible and in-demand.
The following excerpts from summary indicate there is much room for improvement in each of the three nations:
1) The RMI faces many ongoing policy, governance and development challenges. Key indicators show some progress in some areas, but in the most part there is much room for improvement. RMI has an average Human Development Index (HDI) score in the Pacific region, but country performance scores (e.g. by the Asian Development Bank and World Bank) are below-average. Comprehensive reforms are still needed to improve development policies and prospects.
2) In FSM, while there is wide variation across the four states, in general the country continues to struggle to make real development progress. HDI and country performance scores are average to below-average. Stronger policy reform efforts are necessary at national and state levels to improve growth prospects. Improving policies on governance, growth, and poverty reduction are all recognised priorities.
3) While Palau is considered one of the more progressive Pacific states in terms of overall development, it too faces some major challenges. Its country performance scores are above-average in the Pacific, it will achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, and it outscores most other Pacific states on the HDI. But Palauans identify many areas where major improvements can be made. The economy remains highly dependent on grants and tourism, self-reliance remains a distant goal, and some significant social, economic and overall development challenges remain.
Oversight, review and evaluation functions must improve. Leaders should develop and foster a ‘culture’ of accountability, monitoring, and maintenance. Stakeholder participation, along with proactive reform and fiscal policies, are needed in all three countries.
The summary concludes on a hopeful note.“If the political vision and will exists to make real change, significant progress can be made.”
- Aenet Rowa, Yokwe Online, June 23, 2011