The Netherlands

   

Executive Capacity

#24
Key Findings
With a comparatively weak Prime Minister’s Office, the Netherlands falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 24) in the area of executive capacity. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.5 points relative to its 2014 level.

The Prime Minister’s Office coordinates policy, but has limited capacity to evaluate proposals. Independent strategic-planning units and knowledge centers help guide long-term strategies. Proposals often stem from the government coalition agreements or EU policy coordination, with the Council of Ministers assigning drafting responsibility to line ministries. Informal coordination is critical during this process.

RIAs are broadly and effectively applied particularly with regard to environmental impact and administrative-burden reduction. Ex post reviews are common, but often flawed. The government’s revival of the “polder” model interest-group consultation has contributed to the emergence of a network of professional lobbyists, though trade unions have lost representativeness.

The government has created a unit to help departments write more understandable proposals, rules and decrees. A significant number of recent policy failures and implementation gaps are traced to the impact of austerity policies. Major national-level ICT projects have been improperly monitored, resulting in huge overruns. The government has acted as a brake on further EU banking and finance unification.

Strategic Capacity

#8

How much influence do strategic planning units and bodies have on government decision-making?

10
 9

Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions, and they exercise strong influence on government decision-making.
 8
 7
 6


Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Their influence on government decision-making is systematic but limited in issue scope or depth of impact.
 5
 4
 3


Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Occasionally, they exert some influence on government decision-making.
 2
 1

In practice, there are no units and bodies taking a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions.
Strategic Planning
8
The Dutch government has four strategic-planning units: the Scientific Council for Government Policy (Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regereingsbeleid, WRR), the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy (Centraal Plan Bureau, CPB), the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (Sociaal Cultureel Planbureau, SCP) and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Bureau (Planbureau voor de Leefbaarheid, PBL). All of these are formally part of a ministry, but their statutes guarantee them independent watchdog and advisory functions.

Long-term steering capacity has traditionally been strong in the areas of water management and the management of care – that is, in ensuring the maximum opportunity for good care for every eligible citizen, for an acceptable cost. In 2016, the Dutch Association for Public Administration called for the mobilization of more strategic knowledge and steering capacity in national governance. In 2019, evidence has accumulated that this call has to some extent been heeded. The most salient shift in long-tern governmental strategy has been to abandon the neoliberal policy model. At the end of 2018, a tax reduction for big corporations was still deemed to be a top priority, with the aim of creating a better investment environment. In 2019, however, concern definitely tilted toward addressing the stagnation in middle-class incomes despite five years of economic growth, and on ensuring that the burdens and costs imposed by the climate agreement would be shared fairly between corporations and consumers. After many years of discussion, a new pension agreement was reached because the government dropped its demands for a gradual but permanent increase in the age of pension eligibility. All this shows that the strategic shift has been more about consolidating and administrating care and social benefits than about fostering optimism and progress, as would be represented by investments in education or a substantial greening of the economy. Huge demonstrations by farmers and construction companies against a new nitrogen-emission rule (using tractors and heavy machinery to paralyze traffic) forced the government to change course; equally large demonstrations by teachers and students prompted only government resistance.

Planning units have released a flurry of new policy proposals, although though their data and policy recommendations, in the age of science skepticism, have been attacked by the political parties that normally rely on them for political debate and deliberation. These proposals have addressed the areas of pensions, population growth, most aspects of climate change (the Urgenda verdict, the new nitrogen-emissions rule, biodiversity in the Dutch natural environment), the future of Dutch agriculture, traffic infrastructure and mobility, the future of care as a social issue, the role of money and financial regulation, and labor-market regulatory reforms, to cite just a few.

Citations:
R. Hoppe, 2014. Patterns of science/policy interaction in The Netherlands, in P. Scholten & F. van Nispen, Policy Analysis in the Netherlands, Policy Press, Bristol (ISBN 9781447313335)

P. Bloem et al., 2018. Designing a century ahead: climate-change adaptation in the Dutch Delta, in Policy & Society https://doi.org/10.1080/14494035.2018.1513731)

CPB, CBS, SCP, PBL, Verkenning en Monitor Brede Welvaart (https://www.cpb.nl/sites/default/files/omnidownload/PBL-CPB-SCP-Verkenning-Brede-Welvaart-2018.pdf)

NRC-Handelsblad, 17 September 2019. Dit zijn de opvallende plannen voor 2020 en verder.

NRC-Handelsblad, 19 September 2019. De ruk naar het dramaloze midden domineert.

K. Regtien, 10 June 2019. Mobiliteit in 2040. (Artikel Smart NL, accesses 3 November 2019)

M. Bussemaker, 15 February 2019. Zorg als social kwestie. Oratie (website Universiteit Leiden, accessed 3 November 2019)

Does the government regularly take into account advice from non-governmental experts during decision-making?

10
 9

In almost all cases, the government transparently consults with non-governmental experts in the early stages of government decision-making.
 8
 7
 6


For major political projects, the government transparently consults with non-governmental experts in the early stages of government decision-making.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, the government transparently consults with non-governmental experts in the early stages of government decision-making.
 2
 1

The government does not consult with non-governmental experts, or existing consultations lack transparency entirely and/or are exclusively pro forma.
Expert Advice
6
The government frequently employs ad hoc commissions of scientific experts on technical topics like water management, harbor and airport expansion, gas drilling on Wadden Sea islands and pollution studies. The function of scientific advisory services in departments has been strengthened through the establishment of “knowledge chambers” and, following U.S. and UK practice, the appointment of chief scientific officers or chief scientists as advisory experts. Depending on the nature of the policy issues, these experts may flexibly mobilize the required scientific bodies and scientists instead of relying on fixed advisory councils with fixed memberships. This also allows room for political flexibility – that is, by hiring commercial, private consultancies to provide politically desirable research and advice.

Although the use of scientific expertise is quite high, its actual influence on policymaking cannot be estimated as scholarly advice is intended to be instrumental and therefore is not yet welcome in the early phases of policymaking. It is certainly not transparent to the wider public. Since 2011, advice has regressed from relatively “strategic and long-term” to “technical, instrumental and mid-/short-term.”

As might be expected in times of political polarization and science skepticism, even members of parliament have expressed doubts as to the integrity of the knowledge institutes and the validity of their information. The research unit of the Ministry of Justice and Safety (Wetenschappelijk Onderzoeks – en Documentatie Centrum, WODC) has been subject to political meddling, and during the debates and deliberations on the climate agreement, the Environmental Planning Agency’s measurement and modeling practices came under regular scrutiny.

Nevertheless, the cabinet still appears to rely heavily on its knowledge institutes and departmental knowledge centers for its long-term strategies and decision-making. The scrutiny by political parties, members of parliament, civil society associations and journalists has generally been beneficial with regard to the transparency of information collection and the policy support provided by the government’s knowledge institutes.

Citations:
R. Hoppe, 2014. Patterns of science/policy interaction in The Netherlands, in P. Scholten & F. van Nispen, Policy Analysis in the Netherlands, Policy Press, Bristol (ISBN 9781447313335)

De Correspondent, 17 September 2018. Zo glipt de democratie door onze vingers – en zó vormen we een tegenmacht. (decorrespondent.nl, accessed 4 November 2019)

De Telegraaf, 20 February 2019. PBL: er zijn geen nieuwere cijfers energie dan die van 2017 (telegraaf.nl, accessed 4 November 2019)

De Volkskrant, 22 February 2019. Waarom de kritiek op planbureaus propaganda is.(volkskrant.nl, accessed 4 November 2019)

Interministerial Coordination

#23

Does the government office / prime minister’s office (GO / PMO) have the expertise to evaluate ministerial draft bills according to the government’s priorities?

10
 9

The GO / PMO provides regular, independent evaluations of draft bills for the cabinet / prime minister. These assessments are guided exclusively by the government’s priorities.
 8
 7
 6


The GO / PMO evaluates most draft bills according to the government’s priorities.
 5
 4
 3


The GO / PMO can rely on some sectoral policy expertise but does not evaluate draft bills.
 2
 1

The GO / PMO does not have any sectoral policy expertise. Its role is limited to collecting, registering and circulating documents submitted for cabinet meetings.
GO Expertise
6
The Dutch prime minister is formally in charge of coordinating government policy as a whole, and has a concomitant range of powers, which include deciding on the composition of the Council of Ministers’ agenda and formulating its conclusions and decisions; chairing Council of Ministers meetings, committees (onderraad) and (in most cases) ministerial committees; adjudicating interdepartmental conflicts; serving as the primary press spokesperson and first speaker in the States General; and speaking in international forums and arenas (e.g., European Union and the United Nations) on behalf of the Council of Ministers and the Dutch government as a whole.

The prime minister’s own Ministry of General Affairs office has some 14 advising councilors (raadadviseurs, with junior assistants) at its disposal. The advising councilors are top-level civil servants, not political appointees. In addition, the prime minister has a special relationship with the Scientific Council of Government Policy. Sometimes, deputy directors of the planning agencies play the role of secretaries for interdepartmental “front gates.” To conclude, the Prime Minister’s Office and the prime minister himself have a rather limited capacity to evaluate the policy content of line-ministry proposals unless they openly clash with the government platform (regeer-akkoord). Of course, personal skills and experience make a difference, and Prime Minister Rutte has a reputation for excellent informal leadership and conflict management. But structural capacity remains weakly developed.

Citations:
http://www.rijksoverheid.nl/regering/bewindspersonen/jan-peter-balkenende/taken http://www.nationaalarchief.nl/selectielijsten/BSD_Coordinatie_algemeen_regeringsbeleid_stcrnt_2009_63.pdf

Additional reference:
R.B. Andeweg and G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and politics of the Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

M. Rutte, De minister-president: een aanbouw aan het huis van Thorbecke, Lecture by the Prime Minister, 12 October 2016 (rijksoverheid.nl, consulted 8 November 2016)

M. van Weezel and T. Broer, Max en Rhijs over de premier: het geheim van politiek trapezewerker en ‘nat zeepje’ Mark Rutte (Vrij Nederland, vn.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

Nieuw.nl, 1 October 2019. Rutte moet regie nemen in stikstofkwestie (nieuws.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

BNR Nieuwradio, 6 June 2019. Oppositie over klimaatakkoord: iets teveel regie van Rutte (bar.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

To what extent do line ministries involve the government office/prime minister’s office in the preparation of policy proposals?

10
 9

There are inter-related capacities for coordination between GO/PMO and line ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The GO/PMO is regularly briefed on new developments affecting the preparation of policy proposals.
 5
 4
 3


Consultation is rather formal and focuses on technical and drafting issues.
 2
 1

Consultation occurs only after proposals are fully drafted as laws.
Line Ministries
8
Generally, line-ministry legislative or white-paper initiatives are rooted in the government policy accord, EU policy coordination and subsequent Council of Ministers decisions to allocate drafting to one or two particular ministries. In the case of complex problems, draft legislation may involve considerable jockeying for position among the various line ministries. The prime minister is always involved in the kick-off of major new policy initiatives and sometimes in the wording of the assignment/terms of reference itself. After that, however, it may take between six months and four years before the issue reaches the decision-making stage in ministerial and Council of Ministers committees, and again comes under the formal review of the prime minister. Meanwhile, the prime minister is obliged to rely on informal coordination with his fellow ministers. It is difficult to draw conclusions regarding the effectiveness of informal coordination, information-sharing procedures and other such practices. High-level civil servants close to the prime minister have complained about the increasing use of spin doctors and political assistants in such processes. But the prime minister has a good reputation with regard to formal leadership and conflict management.

Citations:
R.B. Andeweg and G.A. Irwin ( 2014), Governance and politics of the Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

NRC-next, Topambtenaar vond Balkenendes optreden slechte zaak,18 June, 2018

How effectively do ministerial or cabinet committees coordinate cabinet proposals?

10
 9

The vast majority of cabinet proposals are reviewed and coordinated first by committees.
 8
 7
 6


Most cabinet proposals are reviewed and coordinated by committees, in particular proposals of political or strategic importance.
 5
 4
 3


There is little review or coordination of cabinet proposals by committees.
 2
 1

There is no review or coordination of cabinet proposals by committees. Or: There is no ministerial or cabinet committee.
Cabinet Committees
8
Council of Ministers committees (onderraad) involve a separate meeting chaired by the prime minister for the ministers involved. Each committee has a coordinating minister responsible for relevant input and documents. Discussion and negotiations focus on issues not resolved through prior administrative coordination and consultation. If the committee fails to reach a decision, the matter is pushed up to the Council of Ministers.

Since the Balkenende IV Council of Ministers there have been six standing Council of Ministers committees: international and European affairs; economics, knowledge and innovation; social coherence; safety and legal order; and administration, government and public services. Given the elaborate process of consultations and negotiations, few issues are likely to have escaped attention and discussion before reaching the Council of Ministers.

However, since the Rutte I and II cabinets have consisted of two or more political parties of contrary ideological stripes (the conservative-liberal VVD and the PvdA or Labor Party, in the case of Rutte II), political pragmatism and opportunism has tended to transform “review and coordination” to simple logrolling, or in Dutch political jargon: “positive exchange,” meaning that each party agrees tacitly or explicitly not to veto the other’s bills. This tendency has negative consequences for the quality of policymaking, as minority views effectively win parliamentary majorities if they are feasible from a budgetary perspective without first undergoing rigorous policy and legal analyses. In the second half of the Rutte II cabinet, the government had to garner political support for its policy initiatives through elaborate negotiations with political parties in the Senate/First Chamber who were not formally part of the governing coalition. Introducing a wider range of perspectives and decision criteria may have increased the quality of policymaking and the democratic nature of the process, given that not only ministerial committees but also political parties were involved.

How effectively do ministry officials/civil servants coordinate policy proposals?

10
 9

Most policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
 8
 7
 6


Many policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
 5
 4
 3


There is some coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
 2
 1

There is no or hardly any coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
Ministerial Bureaucracy
6
Since the 2006 elections, politicians have demanded a reduction in the number of civil servants. This has resulted in a loss of substantive expertise, with civil servants essentially becoming process managers. Moreover, it has undermined the traditional relations of loyalty and trust between (deputy) ministers and top-level officers. The former have broken the monopoly formerly held by senior staff on the provision advice and information by turning increasingly to outside sources such as consultants. Top-level officers have responded with risk-averse and defensive behavior exemplified by professionally driven organizational communication and process management. They have embraced some Dutch variation of New Public Management thinking and practices. The upshot is that ministerial compartmentalization in the preparation of Council of Ministers meetings has increased. Especially in the Ministry of Justice and Safety, the quality of bureaucratic policy and legislation preparation has become a reason for serious concern.

Citations:
R.B. Andeweg and G.A. Irwin ( 2014), Governance and politics of the Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

H. Tjeenk Willink, Een nieuw idee van de staat, Socialisme & Democratie, 11/12, 2012, pp. 70-78

De Correspondent, Den Haag bestuurt het land alsof het een bedrijf is. En democratie heeft het nakijken, 29 June 2018

How effectively do informal coordination mechanisms complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination?

10
 9

Informal coordination mechanisms generally support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 8
 7
 6


In most cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 2
 1

Informal coordination mechanisms tend to undermine rather than complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
Informal Coordination
7
Very little is actually known about informal coordination at the (sub-)Council of Ministers level regarding policymaking and decision-making. The best-known informal procedure used to be the “Torentjesoverleg,” in which the prime minister and a core members of the Council of Ministers consulted with the leaders of the political parties supporting the coalition in the Prime Minister’s Office (“Het Torentje”). Although sometimes considered objectionable – as it appears to contradict the ideal of dualism between the executive and the legislative – coalition governments cannot survive without this kind of high-level political coordination between the government and the States General. Given the weak parliamentary support held by the Rutte I and II councils of ministers (October 2010 – February 2017), such informal coordination is no longer limited to political parties providing support to the governing coalition.

Under the present conditions, in which civil servants are subject to increasing parliamentary and media scrutiny, and in which gaps in trust and loyalty between the political leadership and the bureaucracy staff are growing, informal coordination and the personal chemistry among civil servants are what keeps things running. Regarding interministerial coordination, informal contacts between the senior staff (raadadviseurs) in the prime minister’s Council of Ministers and senior officers working for ministerial leadership are absolutely crucial. Nonetheless, such bureaucratic coordination is undermined by insufficient or absent informal political coordination.

Citations:
R.B. Andeweg and G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and politics of the Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 154-163, 198-203, 220-228.

S. Jilke et al., Public Sector Reform in the Netherlands: Views and Experiences from Senior Executives, COCOPS Research Report, 2013

M. van Weezel and T. Broer, Max en Thijs over de premier: het geheim van politiek trapezewerker en ‘nat zeepje’ Mark Rutte (Vrij Nederland, vn.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

How extensively and effectively are digital technologies used to support interministerial coordination (in policy development and monitoring)?

10
 9

The government uses digital technologies extensively and effectively to support interministerial coordination.
 8
 7
 6


The government uses digital technologies in most cases and somewhat effectively to support interministerial coordination.
 5
 4
 3


The government uses digital technologies to a lesser degree and with limited effects to support interministerial coordination.
 2
 1

The government makes no substantial use of digital technologies to support interministerial coordination.
Digitalization for Interministerial C.
4
Digital technologies are not abundantly used in Dutch interministerial coordination. Like in ICT use across government in general, different departments use different systems whose interoperability is low or absent. Although the Legis project aspires to a more integrated ICT approach in the Dutch legislative system, results have been poor. For example, it is impossible as a non-insider to trace progress in legislative work on a particular bill, let alone to have an overview of all bills in preparation. Digitalization in legislation and interministerial coordination in the Netherlands clearly lags behind that in the United Kingdom or Finland.

In 2019, two important leaders in the push for improved ICT use within governmental departments resigned, and there are severe disagreements between the political and administrative levels of the Department of Internal Affairs and the leadership of the ICT Assessment Bureau, which was established in 2015 to coordinate ICT projects and contain cost overruns.

Citations:
W. Voermans et al., 2012. Legislative processes in transition. Comparative study of the legislative processes in Finland, Slovenia and the UK as a source of inspiration for enhancing the efficiency of the Dutch legislative process, Leiden University ((open access.leidenuniv.nl, accessed 31 October 2018)

Tweede Kamer, vergaderjaar 2014-5, 33 326, nr. 5, Eindrapport onderzoek naar ICT projecten bij de overheid (accessed 4 November 2018)

Trouw, 15 May 2019. De ICT-projecten bij de overheid zijn nog steeds een chaos. (trouw.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

Evidence-based Instruments

#6

To what extent does the government assess the potential impacts of existing and prepared legal acts (regulatory impact assessments, RIA)?

10
 9

RIA are applied to all new regulations and to existing regulations which are characterized by complex impact paths. RIA methodology is guided by common minimum standards.
 8
 7
 6


RIA are applied systematically to most new regulations. RIA methodology is guided by common minimum standards.
 5
 4
 3


RIA are applied in some cases. There is no common RIA methodology guaranteeing common minimum standards.
 2
 1

RIA are not applied or do not exist.
RIA Application
9
In the Netherlands, RIAs are broadly and effectively applied in two fields: environmental-impact assessments (EIMs) and administrative-burden-reduction assessments (ABRAs).

Environmental impact assessments are legally prescribed for projects (e.g., infrastructure, water management, tourism, rural projects, garbage processing, energy and industry) with foreseeable large environmental impacts. Initiators of such projects are obliged to produce an environmental impact report that specifies the environmental impacts of the intended project and activities and includes major alternatives. Environmental research and multi-criteria analysis are the standard methods used.

The development of a method for ex ante evaluation of intended legislation regarding compliance costs to business and citizens was entrusted in 1998 to an ad hoc, temporary, but independent advisory commission called the Advisory Board on Administrative Burden Reduction (ACTAL). In 2011, some policymakers suggested that ACTAL become a permanent rather than temporary body. The policy philosophy on administrative regulation was at that time already shifting from (always negative) “burden reduction” to (prudentially positive and strategic) “appropriate regulation.” After evaluating its impact, the government decided in 2017 that ACTAL would be succeeded by a formal advisory body, the Advisory Body on Assessment of Regulatory Burdens (Adviescollege Toetsing Regeldruk, ATR). At present, the ATR is involved in assessing a large number of regulations concerning topics such as small and medium-sized enterprises, social care, education and EU regulations.

Meanwhile, the Dutch government has been developing an integrated impact assessment framework for policy and legislation, which ought to be applied by every Dutch civil servant preparing policy documents for ministerial decision-making.

Citations:
Milieueffectrapportage (nl.m.wikipedia.org, consulted 26 October 2014)

Staatscourant nr. 29814, 29 Mei 2017, Besluit van 17 mei 2017, nr. 2017000809, houdende instelling van het Adviescollege toetsing regeldruk

Ministerie van Justitie en Veiligheid, Kenniscentrum Wetgeving en Juridische Zaken, Integraal afwegingskader voor beleid en regelgeving, 16 October 2018 (accessed 31 October 2018)

ATR, Naar betere regels. Lessen uit 17 jaar Actal (air-regeldruk.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

Does the RIA process ensure participation, transparency and quality evaluation?

10
 9

RIA analyses consistently involve stakeholders by means of consultation or collaboration, results are transparently communicated to the public and assessments are effectively evaluated by an independent body on a regular basis.
 8
 7
 6


The RIA process displays deficiencies with regard to one of the three objectives.
 5
 4
 3


The RIA process displays deficiencies with regard to two of the three objectives.
 2
 1

RIA analyses do not exist or the RIA process fails to achieve any of the three objectives of process quality.
Quality of RIA Process
8
RIAs are obliged to identify one or several alternatives to the option chosen by an initiator. According to Advisory Board on Administrative Burden Reduction (ATR) guidelines, alternative options for administrative-burden-reduction assessments (ABRAs) are investigated. In principle, the option involving the greatest cost reduction ought to be selected. The extent to which practice follows theory is not known. Stakeholders and decision-makers have been involved in the process of producing RIAs, making burden-reduction analyses more effective. The status of ATR as an independent body for evaluation has been changed to a legally established permanent advisory body.

Stakeholders and interested parties, typically including semi-public bodies and the lobbyists for commercial and/or professional associations (e.g., representing SMEs, social- and medical-care professionals, or farmers), are generally consulted in the intra- or interministerial preparation of bills and policy proposals. Before a draft is passed onto the Council of Ministers, a proposal has to pass a wide range of quality tests, for example regarding budgetary effects, business effects, administrative-burden effects, and societal and environmental effects. After the proposal passes the administrative-burden test, the ATR (as a semi-independent watchdog) scrutinizes it once again. In some cases, departments publicize a draft bill as part of an e-consultation process to solicit feedback from citizens, but this practice is exceptional.

Given the continued and widespread complaints about regulatory burdens (e.g., by dentists, general practitioners, youth workers, nurses, farmers and shopkeepers, to mention just a few), there is some question as to the effectiveness of regulatory-burden-reduction campaigns and the efficacy of the ATR as an independent watchdog.

Citations:
W. Voermans et al., 2012. Legislative processes in transition, Leiden University (open access.leideuniv.nl, accessed 31 October 2018)

Staatscourant nr. 29814, 29 Mei 2017, Besluit van 17 mei 2017, nr. 2017000809, houdende instelling van het Adviescollege toetsing regeldruk

V. Bekkers and A. Edwards, 2018. The role of social media in the policy process, in H. Colebatch and R. Hoppe (eds.), Handbook of Policy, Process and Governing, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar

De Volkskrant, 30 September 2019. Drrie redenen waarom regeldruk de zorg blijft teisteren. (volkskrant.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

Does the government conduct effective sustainability checks within the framework of RIA?

10
 9

Sustainability checks are an integral part of every RIA; they draw on an exhaustive set of indicators (including social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainability) and track impacts from the short- to long-term.
 8
 7
 6


Sustainability checks lack one of the three criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Sustainability checks lack two of the three criteria.
 2
 1

Sustainability checks do not exist or lack all three criteria.
Sustainability Check
8
In the Netherlands, RIAs are broadly and effectively applied in two fields: environmental impact assessments (EIMs) and administrative-burden-reduction assessments (ABRAs). EIMs have been legally mandated since 1987. Anyone who needs a government license for initiating substantial spatial or land-use projects with potentially harmful environmental impacts is obliged to research and disclose potential project impacts. More than 1,000 EIM reports have been administratively and politically processed. They guarantee that environmental and sustainability considerations play a considerable role in government decision-making. However, environmental impact assessments are sometimes subordinated to economic impact assessments. There are no systematic social – or, for example, health – impact assessments. In 2017, the DNB (Dutch National Bank) announced checks on whether firms in the financial sector have sufficiently explored the risks of climate change in their policies. In the water sector, similar stress tests of policies by water management boards, and municipal and local water management/emergency plans are being prepared. In 2018, the results of recent climate-change platform debates, and negotiations between government, business and other stakeholders were elaborately scrutinized and re-calculated by the Planning Bureau for the Living Environment.

Nevertheless, as reported elsewhere (see “Environment”), the Dutch government has regularly helped economic sectors (farmers, fishermen, civil aviation) delay necessary action and downplay the urgency of sustainability problems.

Citations:
NRC.next, “DNB waarschuwt financiële sector voor risico’s klimaatverandering, 4 October 2017”

Kennisportaal Ruimtelijke Adaptatie, “Verpliche stresstest wateroverlast voor waterschappen en gemeenten,” consulted 12 October 2017

PBL, Analyse van het voorstel voor hoofdlijnen van het klimaatakkoord, 27 September 2018 (www.pbl.nl>publicaties, accessed 31 October 2018)

M. Chavannes, 19 July, 2019. De net-niet-politiek van Nederland: zwoegen aan het Klimaatakkoord om draagvlak te creëeren voor rustig aan doen. (decorrespondent.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

To what extent do government ministries regularly evaluate the effectiveness and/or efficiency of public policies and use results of evaluations for the revision of existing policies or development of new policies?

10
 9

Ex post evaluations are carried out for all significant policies and are generally used for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
 8
 7
 6


Ex post evaluations are carried out for most significant policies and are used for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
 5
 4
 3


Ex post evaluations are rarely carried out for significant policies and are rarely used for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
 2
 1

Ex post evaluations are generally not carried out and do not play any relevant role for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
Quality of Ex Post Evaluation
6
The General Audit Chamber (Algemene Rekenkamer) scrutinizes ex post policy evaluations by ministerial departments. Since 2000, the chamber has reported its findings to parliament on the third Wednesday in May each year. In 2012, the government introduced the Regulation for Regular Evaluation Studies, which specifies research criteria for assessing policy efficiency, goal achievement, evidence-based policymaking and subsidy-based policies. Yet, time and again, the chamber has reported deficits in goal achievement and weaknesses in goal formulation, which undermine the quality of ex post evaluation research. Other weaknesses in policy evaluation studies include the lack of citizen perspectives, inability to accurately calculate societal costs and benefits, overreliance on input from implementing organizations for evidence and lack of public access to many evaluations. In line with the general trend toward more instrumental advice, over the last couple of years, the General Audit Chamber has focused its attention on specific points in departmental agendas.
Moreover, there are a wide range of additional non-obligatory evaluations produced by ministerial departments, parliament, government-sponsored knowledge institutes, the ombudsman, implementation bodies and quasi-independent non-governmental bodies. Since evaluation findings are just one factor in designing new or adjusting existing policies, it is not clear how much policy learning actually occurs. A recent study commissioned by the minister of finance assessed past evaluations and their use. The study confirmed that although “no other country evaluates so many of its policies,” policymaking civil servants and members of parliament are less sensitive to the outcomes of previous policies than to images and incidents (in the press). Moreover, obstruction and disinterestedness contribute to methodological weaknesses in many of the evaluation studies, this assessment found. For example, although the government agreement stipulates that a new policy decriminalizing the use of hashish may be experimentally tested at the local level, interference in the study’s design has already made a politically unbiased evaluation of results as good as impossible.
Dutch ex post evaluators closely follow international trends of “evidence informed” and “behavioral knowledge” evaluation studies. There has been a tendency to move away from a focus on single, case-specific ex post evaluation studies to a focus on the construction of broader, more balanced departmental knowledge portfolios, in which ex post evaluation studies are embedded as elements in a larger body of knowledge accessible to policymakers and other participants in policy subsystems. It is not yet clear to what extent such trends in evaluation research really inform evaluation practices.

Citations:
A. Knottnerus, Van casus-specifieke beleidsevaluatie naar systematische opbouw van kennis en ervaring, Beleidsonderzoek Online, May 2016

Meyken Houppermans, ‘Wat is de toegevoegde waarde van de onafhankelijk
deskundige bij beleidsdoorlichtingen?’, Beleidsonderzoek Online juni 2018,
DOI: 10.5553/BO/221335502018000005001

A. Korsten, Wat ervan terecht komt. Zicht op beleidsevaluatie, April 2013 (arnokorsten.nl, accessed 31 October 2018)

NRC Next, 28 August 2019. Gemeenten die meedoen aan experiment met legale wietteelt uitgelekt. (NRC.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

SEO Economisch Onderzoek, december 2018. Beleidsdoorlichtingen belicht (SEO-rapport nr. 2018-110, sep.nl, accessed 8 November 2019

NRC Next, Gemeenten krijgen toch wat ruimte om wiebelend te regelen. ((NRC.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

Societal Consultation

#4

Does the government consult with societal actors in a fair and pluralistic manner?

10
 9

The government always consults with societal actors in a fair and pluralistic manner.
 8
 7
 6


The government in most cases consults with societal actors in a fair and pluralistic manner.
 5
 4
 3


The government does consult with societal actors, but mostly in an unfair and clientelistic manner.
 2
 1

The government rarely consults with any societal actors.
Public Consultation
8
International references to the “polder model” as a form of consensus-building testify to the Dutch reputation for negotiating public support for public policies, sometimes as a precondition for parliamentary approval. In this form of neo-corporatism and network governance, the government consults extensively with vested interest groups in the economy and/or civil society during policy preparation and attempts to involve them in policy implementation. It has been a strong factor in the mode of political operation and public policymaking deployed by the Rutte governments. Recent examples include the public debate on pension reform, the national summit on climate policy following the Paris Accords (involving five sectoral platforms: electricity, built environment, industry, agriculture and land use, and mobility), and public health consultations (focusing on obesity, smoking and “problematic” alcohol consumption). The Rutte I and Rutte II councils of ministers produced societal agreements on austerity measures, housing policy, care policy, energy policy and socioeconomic policy.

In spite of its apparent revival, this mode of politics and policymaking is under stress. Trade unions have suffered due to an erosion of representativeness and increasing fragmentation, although employers’ associations have been less affected. Quite recently, an agreement for a one-off additional budget for education, negotiated between the minister of education and teachers’ unions, fell apart because the unions’ negotiators turned out to have ignored their own constituency, which insisted on the implementation of structural measures. Another criticism is that results may be politically pre-cooked depending on who is sitting at the negotiation table. For example, in the negotiations over the climate agreement, this criticism applied to the discussions on energy and health issues, in which the results allegedly strongly reflected the interests of the energy and pharmaceutical industries.

Another criticism of the process is that it leads to sluggish policymaking, creating a “musical chair” process in which the responsibilities of government, business and influential civil society or non-governmental organizations remain blurred and undermine effective decision-making. The recent revival may owe more to the fact that none of the Rutte cabinets have been able to rely on solid parliamentary support than to any renewed vigor on the part of business, labor unions and civil society associations. A side-effect of the reviving “polder” tradition within a more fragmented political landscape may be the emergence of an extensive network of professional lobbyists. There are signs that business lobbies have notched conspicuous successes. For example, the highly contested (and eventually dropped) proposal to abandon the dividend tax proved to be linked to Unilever’s broken promise (made during the cabinet-formation process) to move its headquarters to the Netherlands.

Since 2011, national departments involved in developing new policies and legislative projects have been able to use the internet to consult with citizens, thereby avoiding some of the problems associated with the traditional “poldering” process. The extent to which this has been successful remains unclear.

Citations:
R.B. Andeweg and G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and politics of the Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 188-198, 230-251.

J. Woldendorp, (2013) De polder is nog lang niet dood, Socialisme & Democratie, jrg. 70, nr. 2, pp. 46-51

P.D. Culpepper, Quiet Politics and Business Power. Corporate Control in Europe and Japan, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011 (esp. ch. 4, The Netherlands and the myth of the corporatist coalition)

Internetconsultatie nieuwe wet – en regelbegeving (Rijksoverheid, accessed 8 November 2019)

A.van Roessel, De Groene Amsterdammer, 13 March 2019. Polderen (groen.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

Policy Communication

#10

To what extent does the government achieve coherent communication?

10
 9

Ministries are highly successful in aligning their communication with government strategy.
 8
 7
 6


Ministries most of the time are highly successful in aligning their communication with government strategy.
 5
 4
 3


Ministries occasionally issue public statements that contradict the public communication of other ministries or the government strategy.
 2
 1

Strategic communication planning does not exist; individual ministry statements regularly contradict each other. Messages are often not factually consistent with the government’s strategy.
Coherent Communication
7
The Informatie Rijksoverheid service responds to frequently asked questions by citizens over the internet, telephone and email. In the age of “mediacracy,” the government has sought to make policy communication more coherent, relying on the National Information Service (Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst, RVD), which is formally a part of the prime minister’s Department for General Affairs, and whose Director General is present at Council of Ministers meetings and is responsible for communicating policies and the prime minister’s affairs to the media. The government has streamlined and coordinated its external communications at the line-ministry level.

Another effort to engage in centralized, coherent communication has involved replacing departmentally run televised information campaigns with a unified, thematic approach (e.g., safety). These efforts to have government speak with “one mouth” appear to have been fairly successful. For example, the information communicated by the government regarding the downing of a passenger plane with 196 Dutch passengers over Ukraine on 17 July 2014 and its aftermath was timely, adequate and demonstrated respect for the victims and the needs of their families.

The continual technological innovation in information and communication technologies has led policy communication to adapting to the new possibilities. New developments are focused on responding more directly to citizen questions, exploring new modes of behavioral change, and utilizing internet-based citizen participation and communication channels in policymaking and political decision-making. For example, in 2011 the Dutch government decided to participate in the global Open Government Partnership. But in 2017 the Dutch government was criticized for structurally misleading and insufficient communication on issues of animal disease and food safety due to prioritizing agricultural interests over public health. In general, government communication occurs in an increasingly challenging media environment in which competition, polarization, trolling and “fake news” represent major challenges. The line between government communication and information, and defending government policies is becoming more and more blurred.

In 2019, in response to repeated criticism that the language used in official communications was unclear, the government decided to create an “Instant Clarity Brigade” (Direct Duidelijk Brigade) to assist departmental policymakers in writing more understandable proposals, rules and decrees.

Citations:
Nationale Ombudsman,5 April 2016.Het verdwijnen van de blauwe envelop. Een onderzoek naar de digitalisering van het berichtenverkeer met de Belastingdienst. (zoek.officielebekendmakingen.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

overheidsexpertise.nl/communicatie (overheidsexpertise.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

NRC Next, 24 October 2019. De Direct Duidelijk Brigade moet teksten overheid weer begrijpelijk maken.

Raad van State, 24 July 2019. Samenvatting advies wetsvoorstel modernisering electronisch bestuurlijk verkeer.(raadvanstate.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

Implementation

#32

To what extent can the government achieve its own policy objectives?

10
 9

The government can largely implement its own policy objectives.
 8
 7
 6


The government is partly successful in implementing its policy objectives or can implement some of its policy objectives.
 5
 4
 3


The government partly fails to implement its objectives or fails to implement several policy objectives.
 2
 1

The government largely fails to implement its policy objectives.
Government Effectiveness
6
According to an optimistic estimate by a leading newspaper, the Rutte II government implemented 80% of its policy initiatives during its four-year term. Of the 271 initiatives, 158 were successful and 59 were (partial) failures. Consequently, the Rutte II government justifiably claimed credit for renewed economic growth, the restoration of budgetary equilibrium and the passage of important austerity measures (e.g., an increase in working hours, reduced public funding for home care, a gradual decrease in tax relief on mortgages and caps on healthcare costs). In its first year, the Rutte III cabinet realized five of its 36 officially announced legislative initiatives; two of which simply involved abolishing (consultative referendum, fiscal reduction for home-owners) existing laws. In its second year, two of its big initiatives, a pension agreement and a climate agreement, were achieved. However, in its overall assessment of government performance in 2018 – 2019, the General Audit Chamber, in an especially pessimistic annual report, found most departmental reports inadequate owing to “bad memory” and inadequate records. For the first time, it also identified illegal expenditures.

Recent policy failures and implementation gaps can be found in virtually all policy areas and departments. This is no longer denied even in parliament. Such failures are generally considered to have resulted from the cuts imposed under the austerity policies of Rutte I and II. Inspectorates in the building, education and healthcare sectors are now considered weak. A similar situation is evident in the consumer and privacy protection field, especially with regard to the digitalization of citizen registrations and the accessibility of online-only government services. However, in the second half of 2019, the neoliberal austerity policy model was largely abandoned, and plans for new and additional public expenditures were announced.

The national government has devolved a significant number of tasks to subnational governments, which makes government and administrative responsibilities more fuzzy, and policy performance harder to evaluate. The share of local governments’ payment obligations that could be fulfilled decreased from 42% in 2009 to 35% in 2017 and was expected to decrease more in 2018. Provincial and local audit chambers do what they can, but the amount and scope of decentralized tasks is simply too large for their capacity at this moment. Policy implementation in the fields of policing, youth care and care for the elderly in particular are increasingly sources of complaints by citizens and professionals, and thus becoming matters of grave concern.

The government frequently formulates policy goals that are more far-reaching than those pursued in practice. The shift from an austerity model to a more expansionary spending policy in September 2019 will make it harder to make realistic evaluations of policy-implementation effectiveness. In academic and professional evaluation circles, a debate is emerging on how to tailor evaluation research designs to the need for more policy-oriented learning as the legitimation for policy change.

Citations:
Financieel Dagblad, 26 February 2019. Gemeenten in zwaar weer door verplichte sociale uitgaven.

NRC – Handelsblad, De snijwonden van Rutte I en II.

M. Chavannes, 25 September 2019. Wij hebben een mooi klimaatakkoord. Wat niet betekent dat we het gaan uitvoeren. (decorrespondent, accessed 3 November 2019)

Algemene Rekenkamer, Verantwoordingsdag. Toespraak President van de Algemene Rekenkamer, 15 May 2019 (Rijksoverheid, accessed 3 November 2019)

Rathenau Instituut, 23 October 2019. Hoe spelen evaluaties een rol in kennis voor beleid? (rathenau.nl, accessed 3 November 2019)

De Correspondent, 26 October 2019. De CO-2 heffing die nooit werd geïnd.

To what extent does the organization of government provide mechanisms to ensure that ministers implement the government’s program?

10
 9

The organization of government successfully provides strong mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 8
 7
 6


The organization of government provides some mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 5
 4
 3


The organization of government provides weak mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 2
 1

The organization of government does not provide any mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
Ministerial Compliance
7
Dutch ministers’ hands are tied by party discipline; government/coalition agreements (which they have to sign in person during an inaugural meeting of the new Council of Ministers); ministerial responsibility to the States General; and the dense consultation and negotiation processes taking place within their own departments, other departments in the interdepartmental administrative “front gates” and ministerial committees. Ministers have strong incentives to represent their ministerial interests, which do not necessarily directly reflect government coalition policy. The record-long formation period for the Rutte III government, which consists of four coalition partners (VVD, CDA, CU, and D66), resulted in a detailed government agreement underwritten by all four parties and their ministers. However, structural cleavages (along left-right, immigration and ethical issues) between the coalition parties have led to considerable inter-cabinet tensions, and thus opportunities for individual ministers to highlight their party-political affiliation and downplay the government agreement.

Citations:
R.B. Andeweg & G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and Politics of The Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 140-163

How effectively does the government office/prime minister’s office monitor line ministry activities with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The GO / PMO effectively monitors the implementation activities of all line ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of most line ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of some line ministries.
 2
 1

The GO / PMO does not monitor the implementation activities of line ministries.
Monitoring Ministries
4
Given the Prime Minister Office’s lack of capacity to coordinate and follow up on policy proposal and bills, systematic monitoring of line ministries’ implementation activities is scarcely possible. In the event of crises, ad hoc monitoring does occur. Parliamentary debate on ministerial monitoring should have been limited to a well-defined set of “focus subjects” in full accordance with the policy-program budgeting philosophy developed in the 1970s. However, recent political developments (the election campaigns in 2010 and a Council of Ministers breakdown in 2012) have prevented this. In 2012, yet another system of program budgeting – “responsible budgeting” – was introduced.

Since 2013 to 2014, General Audit Chamber studies have indeed focused on particular subjects, and following some political consultation, on departmental domains. In 2012, the General Audit Chamber reported that just 50% of governmental policy initiatives were evaluated, most of these evaluations incorrectly were considered effectiveness studies. Hence, parliament remains largely ill-informed about the success of governmental goals and objectives. The problem may well be that members of parliament don’t really care because they are more concerned by achieving future projects than reflecting on past performance. In 2016, the government cut financing for the General Audit Chamber by €1.2 billion, meaning a personnel reduction from 273 to 233 full-time employees and outsourcing research for specific programs. In 2017, the audit chamber launched a website for monitoring ministerial compliance of audit chamber recommendations. Four out of five recommendations made by the audit chamber were complied with, according to ministerial self-reports. In 2019, delegation to line ministries resulted in surprise policy failures with regard to sustainability targets, dioxide emissions policy for agriculture and building activities, and toxic risks policy for soil and paints.

Citations:
Algemene Rekenkamer, Opvolging Aanbevelingen (Rijksoverheid, accessed 1 November 2018)

R.B. Andeweg & G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and Politics of The Netherlands. Houdmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 188, 198-203

NPO, 1 November 2019. Na boeren gaan ook bouwers, baggeraars en grondverzetters naar Den Haag.

How effectively do federal and subnational ministries monitor the activities of bureaucracies/executive agencies with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The ministries effectively monitor the implementation activities of all bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 8
 7
 6


The ministries monitor the implementation activities of most bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 5
 4
 3


The ministries monitor the implementation activities of some bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 2
 1

The ministries do not monitor the implementation activities of bureaucracies/executive agencies.
Monitoring Agencies|Bureaucracies
4
A 2016 evaluation of the national Framework Law on Agencies/Bureaucracies has insufficient scope according to a considerable number of members of parliament: too many agencies are exempted from (full) monitoring directives, while annual reports are delivered too late or are incomplete. Hence, the government lacks adequate oversight over the dozens of billions of euros of expenses managed by bodies at some distance from the central government. In 2014 – 2018, it became clear that several oversight agencies and inspectorates, such as the Inspectorate for Healthcare and the Authority for Consumers and Markets, were not quite up to their tasks.
The national government’s ICT projects too have been improperly monitored, resulting in huge time and cost overruns. The Social Insurance Bank (Sociale Verzekeringsbank, SVB) was for far too long unable to disburse personal benefits to special-education students and senior citizens eligible for day and home care on time and in the correct amount. The Implementing Institute for Workers’ Insurances (Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen, UVW) has long struggled with apparently unsolvable problems, including delays in medical check-ups and increasing levels of fraud, while the inaccessibility of its ICT system is undermining communication with clients. Unemployment benefit fraud by immigrants with jobs went unpunished for years.

Parliament and journalists normally evaluate inspectorates on the basis of the number of unexpected failures, as well as through formal criteria of ministerial responsibility and accountability. This normally leads to considerable criticism and a call for more robust ministerial oversight. Yet, as independent government organizations focused on specific societal task areas (healthcare, food safety, customs clearance, transportation safety, etc.), inspectorates are meant to have a relatively wide scope for discretionary actions. In 2013, the Scientific Council of Government Policy (WRR) formulated a number of principles broadly defining the task of inspectors. This view stressed inspectors’ societal function, the evidence of societal outcomes, a governance approach, a reflexive approach and attention to core values. In 2019, the Inspection Council (Inspectieraad) published a report in which several experts judged the sector’s progress against this broader view. In a very general way, their conclusion was the current legal structure and the influence of ministerial oversight result in an inspection approach that is top-down and inside-out. The council advocates a more flexible bottom-up and outside-in approach that involved meaningful alliances between inspectorates and key actors in the field of governance and technological change.

Citations:
WRR, 2013. Toezien op publieke belangen. Naar een verruimd perspectief op rijkstoezicht.

Inspectieraad, 2019. Reflecties op de staat van het toezicht, Den Haag (Rijksoverheid, accessed 2 November 2019)

Evaluatie Kaderwet zelfstandige bestuursorganen, Kamerstuk 33 147, nr. 5, Verslag van een schriftelijk overleg, 20 September 2018

A. Pelizza and R. Hoppe, Birth of a failure. Media debates and digital infrastructure and the organization of governance, in Administration & Society, 2015

To what extent does the central government ensure that tasks delegated to subnational self-governments are adequately funded?

10
 9

The central government enables subnational self-governments to fulfill all their delegated tasks by funding these tasks sufficiently and/or by providing adequate revenue-raising powers.
 8
 7
 6


The central government enables subnational governments to fulfill most of their delegated tasks by funding these tasks sufficiently and/or by providing adequate revenue-raising powers.
 5
 4
 3


The central government sometimes and deliberately shifts unfunded mandates to subnational governments.
 2
 1

The central government often and deliberately shifts unfunded mandates to subnational self-governments.
Task Funding
4
Decentralization and integration subsidies comprise 14% of all income from the general fund (Gemeentefonds). Policy-related national subsidies have decreased as a proportion of total income (falling from 62% in 1990 to 34% in 2011) and in number (from over 400 in 1985 to less than 50 at present). As of 2015, the national government has pursued a far-reaching decentralization of policy tasks (in youth work, chronic patient care, social benefits, worker-activation employment programs). However, local-government budgets are supposed to contribute to meeting the European Monetary Union 3% government-deficit norm by accepting a decrease in their total budget. In 2014, local governments on average received €1,091 per inhabitant. In 2017, this amount has increased to €1,645. Nevertheless, in the social-policy domain, municipal governments still ran a very considerable deficit in 2018 –2019.

Local governments will be expected to “do more with less” in the coming years. The Center for Economic Policy Analysis recently proposed that local governments expand their local tax base; combined with a decrease in national taxes, this would simultaneously be good for the national economy and local democracy. The Association of Dutch Local Governments (Vereniging Nederlandse Gemeenten, VNG) has installed a special advisory commission to look into the issue. The national government and VNG appear to be locked in a continuous round of negotiations over structural measures concerning the Gemeentefonds. Meanwhile, in the background, there is a political discussion concerning the future of municipal government: Should municipal governments deliver services to citizens that transcend present municipal boundaries, or should municipalities remain governance hubs of low-threshold accessibility and participatory governance? This l atter path is exactly what has been proposed in the youth-care sector, the only field in which the national government has conceded the failure of decentralization and the current task funding model. Similar problems are evident across the entire educational sector, especially with regard to a shortage of teachers due to low salaries, task overload, large class sizes and a lack of professional freedom. These issues have yet to be recognized by the government in spite of a general teachers’ strike.

Citations:
VNG, De wondere wereld van de gemeentefinanciëen, 2014 (eng.nl, consulted 9 November 2016)

CPB, Waarom zijn de gemeentelijke investeringen sinds 2009 zo sterk gedaald?, 30 October 2018 (CPB.nl)

M. Allers, Naar één gemeente?, Symposium 25 Jaar Centrum voor Onderzoek van de Economie van Lagere Overheden, 4 October, 2018 (coelo.nl. accessed 1 November 2018)

NRC-Handelblad, 8 May 2019. Meer geld voor jeugdzorg na noodkreet gemeenten.

NRC-Handelsblad, 8 November 2019. Gemeenten: kabinet moet jeugdzorg niet weer verbouwen.

NRC-Handelsblad, 8 November 2019. Bond houdt achterban niet meer bij.

To what extent does central government ensure that subnational self-governments may use their constitutional scope of discretion with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The central government enables subnational self-governments to make full use of their constitutional scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 8
 7
 6


Central government policies inadvertently limit the subnational self-governments’ scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 5
 4
 3


The central government formally respects the constitutional autonomy of subnational self-governments, but de facto narrows their scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 2
 1

The central government deliberately precludes subnational self-governments from making use of their constitutionally provided implementation autonomy.
Constitutional Discretion
5
Dutch local governments are hybrids of “autonomous” and “co-government” forms. However, local autonomy is defined mostly negatively as pertaining to those tasks left to local discretion because they are not explicitly mentioned as national policy issues. Co-government is financially and materially constrained in rather extensive detail by ministerial grants. Increasingly, the Dutch national government uses administrative and financial tools to steer and influence local policymaking. Some would go so far as to claim that these tools have in sum created a culture of quality control and accountability that paralyzes local governments, violating the European Charter for Local Government. This is due in part to popular and political opinion that local policymaking, levels of local-service delivery and local taxes ought to be equal everywhere in the (small) country.

Starting in 2016, the Local Government Fund (Gemeentefonds) budget has increased in step with increases in the national government’s budget. The transfer of policy competencies in many domains of care imply that local discretion has increased, sometimes resulting in different treatment for similar cases by local governments in different parts of the country.

Citations:
Hans Keman and Jaap Woldendorp (2010), „The Netherlands: Centralized – more than less!‟, in: Jürgen Dieringer and Roland Sturm (hrsg.), Regional Governance in EU-Staaten, Verlag Barbara Budrich: 269-286.

VNG-reactie op de Rijksbegroting 2019, Bijzondere Ledenbrief, (vng.nl., consulted 1 November 2018)

H. Bekkers, VNG waarschuwt voor tegenvallen 2019, Binnenlands Bestuur, 27 September 2018 (binnenlandsbestuur.nl, accessed 1 November 2018)

To what extent does central government ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services?

10
 9

Central government effectively ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
 8
 7
 6


Central government largely ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
 5
 4
 3


Central government ensures that subnational self-governments realize national minimum standards of public services.
 2
 1

Central government does not ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
National Standards
5
Local governments themselves also try to meet mutually agreed-upon national standards. Several studies by local audit chambers have involved comparisons and benchmarks for particular kinds of services. Local governments have been organizing voluntary peer reviews of each other’s executive capacities. In 2009, the Association of Dutch Local Governments established the Quality Institute of Dutch Local Governments (Kwaliteitsinstituut Nederlandse Gemeenten, KING, renamed VNG Realisatie B.V.). As part of a knowledge platform (Waarstaatjegemeente.nl), the Association of Dutch Local Governments produces a comparative report on the status of local governments (previously De staat van Gemeenten, now the Gemeentelijke Monitor Social Domain) that collects relevant policy evaluations and assists local governments in their management of information. In 2019, new task fields and dashboards were added to this tool. Nevertheless, due to the implementation of strong decentralization plans, including funding cutbacks, it is likely that the uniformity of national standards in the delivery of municipal services will diminish. Instead of strict output equality, official discourse now refers to “situational equality.” This development is counteracted by increasing cooperation by municipalities in transboundary tasks (e.g., garbage collection and treatment, youth care, and care for the elderly).
National standards are implicit in the nationwide local-government fund model, which allocates a share of national tax revenues to the roughly 360 local governments on the basis of numerous variables. This funding today comprises 86% of local-government budgets. Standards diverge, depending on how local governments handle policy problems in these domains. This in part reflects incomplete and imperfect horizontal coordination between local governments.

Citations:
A. Korsten, 2004. Visiteren van gemeentebesturen, Bestuurwetenschappen, 1-15, VNG Uitgeverij

P. Meurs, Maatwerk en willekeur. Een pleidooi voor situationele gelijkheid, Raad voor Volksgezondheid en Samenleving, 28 January, 2016

VNG, June 2019. Gemeentelijke Monitor Sociaal Domein Aanleverprotocol, (vng.realisatie.nl, accessed 1 November 2019)

Waarstaatjegemeente.nl, 26-10-2019 (waarstaatjegemeente.nl, accessed 1 November 2019)

To what extent is government enforcing regulations in an effective and unbiased way, also against vested interests?

10
 9

Government agencies enforce regulations effectively and without bias.
 8
 7
 6


Government agencies, for the most part, enforce regulations effectively and without bias.
 5
 4
 3


Government agencies enforce regulations, but ineffectively and with bias.
 2
 1

Government agencies enforce regulations ineffectively, inconsistently and with bias.
Regulatory Enforcement
5
In the Netherlands, regulatory enforcement by administrative bodies rather than legal prosecution by legal authorities is used to counter the efforts of criminal organizations to penetrate the formal economy and government administrations. Attention has been focused on illegal-drug production, traffic (notably in harbor cities, but also in the relatively empty rural areas of the country’s south and east), transportation and trade, as well as on human trafficking (women, refugees). Special police teams, mayors of larger cities, national and local public prosecutors, and fiscal detectives collaborate in detecting drug and human trafficking gangs – or, through the use of ordinary administrative laws, to “harass” drug and human traffickers to such an extent that they close or, more frequently, relocate. Studies trying to estimate the effectiveness of such methods have been methodologically contested and are thus inconclusive. It is in connection to illegal drugs and human trafficking, that mayors of larger cities and sometimes small, rural villages become “crime fighters.” Another attention area is the integrity of political and administrative bodies. In the recent local elections, some municipalities and political parties screened aspiring new council members’ civic conduct status to a hitherto unusual extent. Integrity screening for police and customs officers, and sometimes high-level civil servants has also been strengthened. Recently, two aldermen in The Hague were accused by public prosecutors of accepting bribes by local entrepreneurs. The narrowing of the criminological definition of “undermining” has been criticized by those who examine big corporations and financial institutions who abuse regulations and lax oversight, commit fraud and corruption, or do not comply with environmental regulations, especially regarding agriculture and chemistry. It is often claimed that regulations are not strictly enforced with regard to white-collar crimes, the implication being one of a classist justice system. However, it seems that the Dutch government overall tries to enforce rules effectively and fairly but increasingly appears to fail.

Citations:
P. Tops and J. Tromp, 2019. De achterkant van Amsterdam

Trouw, 31 August 2019. Niet alleen in Amsterdam zijn drugs een probleem.

Follow the Money, Voor echte undermining moet je op de Zuidas zijn, 28 August, 2018 (ftm.nl, accessed 1 November 2018)

J. Brouwer, in NRC-Handelsblad, “Ondermijning” is een loos begrip, 1 October 2018

Joop BNNVARA, 4 September 2019 Deskundige serveert Amsterdams drugsrapport Tops en Tromp af (joop.bnn.vara.nl, accesses 28 October 2019)

NRC Handelsblad,1 October 2019. Haagse wethouders beschuldigd van corruptie, college vraagt om terugtreding.

Adaptability

#20

To what extent does the government respond to international and supranational developments by adapting domestic government structures?

10
 9

The government has appropriately and effectively adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 8
 7
 6


In many cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 2
 1

The government has not adapted domestic government structures, no matter how beneficial adaptation might be.
Domestic Adaptability
5
Government reform has been on and off the agenda for at least 40 years. In this time there has been no substantial reform of the original government structure, which dates back to the 1848 constitution, “Thorbecke’s house.” The Council of State, which is the highest court of appeal in administrative law, is still part of the executive, not the judiciary. A brief experiment with consultative referendums was nipped in the bud early in the Rutte III cabinet rule. The Netherlands is one of the last countries in Europe in which mayors are appointed by the national government. In spring 2013, the Rutte II government largely withdrew its drastic plans to further reduce the number of local and municipal governments. Given the Dutch citizens’ relatively high level of trust in national institutions, it could be argued there was no need for reforms.

The most recent episode in this saga of institutional stability (or inertia) was a report by the Remkes Commission, which advocated state reforms rebalancing the demands of democracy and the rule of law. Among its 83 recommendations, the report advocated for the direct election of politicians tasked with forming new cabinets, the introduction of a binding corrective referendum process, the establishment of a Constitutional Court tasked with assessing the constitutionality of parliamentary laws, and procedures that would give voters greater influence over who is elected to parliament. The commission also called for a new political culture that would accept less detailed government coalition agreements, and would be more willing to consider the possibility of minority governments.

Information about EU policies and decisions reach the Dutch parliament through a large number of special channels. Although the number of civil servants with legal, economic and administrative expertise at the EU level has undoubtedly increased due to their participation in EU consultative procedures, no new structural adjustments in departmental policy and legislative preparation have been implemented. At present, a political mood of “Dutch interests first” translates into a political attitude of unwillingness (beyond what has already been achieved) to adapt domestic political and policy infrastructure to international, particularly EU, trends and developments..

Citations:
Gemeentelijke en provinciale herindelingen in Nederland (home.kpn.nl/pagklein/gemhis.html, consulted 27 October 2014)

NOS, De haat-liefde verhouding van premier Rutte met de EU, 13 June 2018

Raad voor het Openbaar Bestuur, Signalement.Referenda en andere vormen van burgerparticipatie op nationaal niveau, July 2018.

Trouw, Dat het voorlopig gedaan is met referendums is niet meer dan terecht, 28 February 2018

Staatscommissie parlementair stelsel (die. Remkes), December 2018. Lage drempels, hoge dijken.Democratie en rechtsstaat in balans, Amsterdam: Boom

Eurofound, 2018. Societal change in change in institutions, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg (esp. Table 3)

To what extent is the government able to collaborate effectively with international efforts to foster global public goods?

10
 9

The government can take a leading role in shaping and implementing collective efforts to provide global public goods. It is able to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress.
 8
 7
 6


The government is largely able to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. Existing processes enabling the government to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress are, for the most part, effective.
 5
 4
 3


The government is partially able to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. Processes designed to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress show deficiencies.
 2
 1

The government does not have sufficient institutional capacities to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. It does not have effective processes to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress.
International Coordination
7
The Netherlands has been a protagonist in all forms of international cooperation since the Second World War. However, research has shown that since the late 1970s, 60% of EU directives have been delayed (sometimes by years) before being transposed into Dutch law. The present-day popular attitude to international affairs is marked by reluctance, indifference or rejection. This has had an impact on internal and foreign policy, as indicated by the Dutch shift toward assimilationism in integration and immigration policies; the decline in popular support and subsequent lowering of the 1%-of-government-spending-norm for development aid; the shift in the government’s attitude toward being a net contributor to EU finances; and the rejection of the EU referendum and the rejection of the EU treaty with Ukraine in a non-binding referendum.

The change in attitudes has also negatively affected government participation and influence in international coordination of policy and other reforms. Since 2003, the Dutch States General have been more involved in preparing EU-related policy, but largely through the lens of subsidiarity and proportionality – that is, in the role of guarding Dutch sovereignty. However, Dutch ministers do play important roles in the coordination of financial policies at the EU level. Indeed, it is only since the beginning of the banking and financial crisis that the need for better coordination of international policymaking by the Dutch government has led to reforms in the architecture of policy formulation. The sheer number of EU top-level meetings between national leaders forces the Dutch prime minister to act as a minister of general and European affairs, with heavy support from the minister of finance. The Dutch and the Germans routinely put the brakes on further unification of EU policies in the policy domain of banking and finance; moreover, the Dutch have resisted efforts to dismantle tax and financial rules that have turned the Netherlands into a tax haven for American and Russian capital. The vice-president of the European Commission, Timmermans, is a former Dutch minister. In the close race to succeed Juncker as president of the European Commission, he was the lead candidate for the Socialists in the European Parliament, but ultimately lost. The Dutch minister for Development Aid and Trade plays an important role in fostering better cooperation between governments, international companies and international aid organizations through transnational treaties on production and supply chains. The Netherlands will be part of the UN Security Council for the next year.

Citations:
R.B. Andeweg & G.A. Irwin, Governance and Politics of The Netherlands (2014). Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 220-228 regarding coordination viz-a-viz the EU and 251-272 for Foreign Policy in general.

Adviesraad International Vraagstukken, TK Vergaderjaar 2017-18, nr. 23987 nr. 260, Coalitievorming na de Brexit. Allianties voor een Europese Unie die moderniseert en beschermt, 7 September 2018

De Correspondent, 1 March 2019. Nederland blijft EU-plannen dwarsbomen die zijn positie als belastingparadijs bedreigen. (decorrespondent.nl, accessed 3 November 2019)

NPO, 7 May 2019. Hoekstra wil leidende rol Duitsland in gemoderniseerde EU.

Organizational Reform

#23

To what extent do actors within the government monitor whether institutional arrangements of governing are appropriate?

10
 9

The institutional arrangements of governing are monitored regularly and effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The institutional arrangements of governing are monitored regularly.
 5
 4
 3


The institutional arrangements of governing are selectively and sporadically monitored.
 2
 1

There is no monitoring.
Self-monitoring
5
There have only been two visible changes in the institutional practices of the Dutch government at the national level. One is that the monarch was stripped of participation in cabinet-formation processes in 2012; the second chamber or senate now formally directs that process. The effect on government formation was very mixed, with a historically rapid formation in 2012 and the longest-lasting coalition formation process in 2017. The second change was the informal adaptation to lower levels of parliamentary support on the part of the Rutte I and II governments. Informal coordination processes between government ministers, and all members of the senate and second chamber have become crucial for governing at the national level. Following provincial elections in 2019, this also applies to the present Rutte III cabinet.

Two open organizational-reform crises have emerged in recent times that threaten citizens’ well-being in the long run. The first is the underfunded, understaffed and ill-considered transfer of policy responsibility to municipal and local governments within important domains such as youth care, healthcare and senior-citizen care. However, experiments in local budgeting and deliberative and participatory policymaking (Code Oranje, Civocracy) have gained a modicum of traction at the local level.

Second, there is a looming reform crisis in the justice and policing system, which undermines the government’s task of protecting citizens’ security. The reform of the policing system from regional or local bodies into a single big national organization is stagnating; police officers have mounted strikes based on wage and working-condition issues; and the top echelon of the police leadership is in disarray. One manifestation of this crisis in the organizational reform of policing has been the polarization of views on the role of mayors in fighting local (often drug-related) crime. Some observers want mayors to be crime fighters; others argue that the office holder should merely stay informed regarding prosecutions and policy actions. The digitalization of the justice system and the reduction in the number of courts, in addition to imposed cutbacks, has wreaked havoc within the judicial branch of government. There is a crisis in the relations between the political and the bureaucratic elements, given that the Department of Justice and Security is supposed to provide political guidance to both of these reform movements.

Although institutional arrangements are monitored regularly (Scientific Council of the Government on Citizen Self-Reliance, Council for Public Administration on Local Democracy and annual reports by the national Council of State), recommendations and plans are not followed up due to a lack of political will. In 2019, the Council of State warned that there was a risk of subjecting parliamentary legislation to the outcomes of poldering practices that effectively give too much power to organized and vested stakeholder interests (e.g., in the context of the big agreements on housing, pensions and climate).

Citations:
Code Oranje|Democratic Challenge, democratic challenge.nl

Civocracy, civocracy.org

NRC-Handelsblad, 11 April 2019. Raad van State: parlement maakt zichzelf machteloos door akkoorden.

Financieel Dagblad, 31 August 2019. Polder-sheriffs worstelen met regelwoud en geldgebrek.

Krouwel, A. P. M., & Koedam, J. (2015). The Netherlands: Investiture behind closed doors. In B. E. Rasch, S. Martin, & J. A. Cheibub (Eds.), Parliaments and Government Formation: Unpacking Investiture Rules (pp. 253-274). Oxford: Oxford University press.

To what extent does the government improve its strategic capacity by changing the institutional arrangements of governing?

10
 9

The government improves its strategic capacity considerably by changing its institutional arrangements.
 8
 7
 6


The government improves its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
 5
 4
 3


The government does not improve its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
 2
 1

The government loses strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
Institutional Reform
6
No major changes have taken place in strategic arrangements or capacities beyond what has already been mentioned regarding externally driven policy coordination in fiscal and economic matters. Generally, strategic capacity is rather weak, though there are signs that government officials and politicians are actively considering and in some cases have even adopted proposals for strategic change. However, due to the long period of austerity, which came to an end only in 2019, strategic capacities have not been strengthened. Experiments in participatory budgeting and local democracy may somewhat harness citizen knowledge and expertise to local government. A policy mood, which is only slowly adapting to European developments, may also result in some institutional reform over the mid-term.
Back to Top