In February 1953, a NW gale swept the North Sea and, combined
with the astronomical high tide, a disaster occurred in
the southwest part of the Netherlands. Much of the Rhine-Meuse-Schelde
region of the Netherlands was flooded inundating 130,000
hectares and killing 1835 people and urging the evacuation
The disaster led to the formulation of the Dutch "Deltaplan"
which consisted of strengthening of coast and river
dikes and the construction of dams closing-off estuaries.
In the mid-1970s, the protective construction were nearly
complete, except for the dam in the Oosterschelde. Originally,
it was decided to simply close-off the estuary, but
opposition grew as peaple realised that the dam would
destroy the rare ecology and oyster and mussel fishing
industry. Thus, alternatives had to be sought. As the
choice between several alternatives was complex due
to the many stakeholders and interests involved, the
Dutch government initiated a Policy Analysis of the
Oosterschelde to analyze the alternative solutions to
the problem (GOEL77).
This case illustrates when Policy Analysis is used.
It can be defined as: a systematic investigation of complex
policy alternatives as to assist
decision-makers in choosing a preferred course of action
in the public sector under uncertain
Policy Analysis is advantageous when social issues are
involved, there are many contradictory interests and many
non-comparable values must be compared.
Policy analysis consists of the following steps:
- problem analysis
- establishing criteria
- identifying alternatives
- evaluating alternatives
- ranking alternatives
These activities can be implemented following a linear
or a concentric approach. In the linear approach, the
steps are done subsequently. In the concentric approach,
the activities of the study are carried out parallel.
This approach aims to get insight in the problem, its
alternatives and their effects, after which a further
specification is formulated.
In reality, a policy study is somewhere in between
these two extremes. The starting point is the linear
approach, but the remaining part of the process is usually
not followed from the beginning to the end "according
to the book". Mostly there are one or more iteration
loops. For example, it can become apparent that during
the generating of alternatives, more problems become
important than was initially anticipated, or more alternatives
are possible than foreseen in the beginning. Another
aspect is that several phases may be split-up in various
The five steps are subsequently discussed in this module.