Who watches the watchmen? Biases of policy professionals

Venue: Conference Hall, CDPR

Date: 9th Feb 2018, Friday

Time: 3.30 pm to 5.00 pm

Consortium for Development Policy Research (CDPR) hosted its twentieth Lahore Policy Exchange talk on “Understanding societal failure in providing clean drinking water.” Policy professionals play a central role in translating data and research into policy options and in guiding decision-making. Policy professionals are contractually obligated to engage with data objectively and impartially to achieve optimum policy outcomes. Underlying the evidence revolution in development economics is an assumption that policy makers can put this evidence to use. However, a vast literature from Psychology and Economics demonstrates how difficult it is to disentangle decisions from biases and how decisions do not follow from data in a straight forward manner. Using the context of health and poverty, coupled with data from samples from elite institutions, the following speakers will discuss how biases stem from having a particular worldview, often with ideological origins; how they translate into decisions; how policy makers face structural and analytical constraints in using evidence; and measures policy professionals can use to mitigate the impact of biases and other constraints on decisions. Speakers: 1. Sheheryar Banuri (Development Economist and Lecturer at the University of East Anglia) presented his research on the issue of biased policy making using examples of the Ebola crisis and support for minimum wage laws. 2. Salman Siddique (Former Bureaucrat) discussed the implications of such biases for policy making in Pakistan. 3. Asad Liaqat (PhD Candidate at Harvard University) presented his research on the constraints that civil servants face in using evidence and how they often update their beliefs in unexpected ways when presented with evidence. Ali Cheema (Programme Director Center for Economic Research in Pakistan) provided opening remarks and moderated the discussion.