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The clear and present danger of modelling on public policy

By Murray Hunter - posted Wednesday, 2 November 2022

Public policy is the framework upon which government decisions are based upon. Good public policy should result in good governance, while poor public policy can be a disaster for a nation.

We assume public policy comes from the political parties we elect as governments, and their respective administrations. However, the bulk of public policy comes from an unelected, faceless, and largely unaccountable public service, which creates policy papers, which on the whole are rubberstamped by executive government. Most public policy will bypass any cabinet consideration and be approved at ministry level. It will then be operated through administrative law.

The influence of modelling upon public policy


Many government decisions are based upon some form of research undertaken by the public service, or contracted private organizations on their behalf. Within the gamut of research is the sub-discipline of modelling and forecasting.

Modelling is utilized in examining population demographic changes, urban planning, migration, and budgeting. This flows down into plans to build highways, schools, hospitals, and police stations.

When the covid pandemic swept the world in late 2019 and early 2020, computer models were used to extrapolate what was occurring around the world. Sophisticated computer models based upon a number of assumptions were constructed to forecast the effects of Covid-19 upon country populations.

These models didn't take into account the mutation of Covid-19, the community build up of natural immunity, and the effects of a vaccination program, which didn't exist at the time. The predictions were many-fold higher than what actually happened.

Public servants proposed to their respective executive governments drastic measures such as closing borders, implementing curfews, restricting people to their homes, as being necessary to stop the spread of Covid-19, to take immediate pressure of public health systems.

However, a recent pre-print paperhighlights the vast difference between forecasts and actualities. The new study calculated the fatality rate of those under 69 years old, to be in the vicinity of 0.05 percent, rather than the 0.9 percent fatality rate forecast.


This puts into question the wisdom of lockdowns, and other restrictive measures, given the actualities. The costs of public policy measures upon the economy, SMES, personal health, personal freedoms, and some would say the very institution of democracy, have far outweighed the benefits.

It must be examined how governments could have made such decisions without listening to dissenting and counter opinions. What made things worse was that government just ignored opinions of qualified people outside the bureaucracy, while the mainstream media didn't give any time or space for these opinions, and social media platforms suppressed them.

The has cost the integrity of public policy makers immensely. The mistakes made from relying solely upon modelling, rather than actualities has been devastating.

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About the Author

Murray Hunter is an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis. He blogs at Murray Hunter.

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