And then the Rutte I cabinet fell. For the fifth time in about ten years, we'll be holding elections. Not exactly a strong basis for ambitious and far-seeing policy. After years of political stagnation in Italy, Mario Monti came up with a business cabinet last November, filled with professors and law professionals but without a single politician. That inspired Resource to speculate on what a business cabinet, Rabbinge I, would mean for the Netherlands.
The cabinet members did not stop their deliberations after the article came out. They managed to avoid being blinded by their ideology, put the interests of the country above their personal ones, and today they publish their manifesto for a recharged and stronger Netherlands. Rabbinge I is not afraid to look at the bigger picture.
The Wageningen business cabinet goes for a long-term approach, reigning in the financial sector and taking an international perspective on things. You can read below how the future would look if it were up to Wageningen UR.
1. The fundamental principle for this business cabinet is sustainable development, including - or perhaps especially - in times when belts are being tightened. Sustainable development is the foremost objective of the policy and is pursued through:
- a food supply policy based on the 'best ecological means', with the most locally appropriate advanced agricultural methods applied in the right places;
- a policy geared to energy saving and a transition to a society based on direct energy supplies (such as direct solar power) rather than fossil fuels;
- a natural resources policy based on maximum recycling and substitution;
- a policy targeting maximum conservation and promotion of biodiversity, including an Ecological Main Structure;
- a policy geared to careful use of water and soils, including a further overhaul of aqua-ecosystems.
This policy is based on a set of norms and values geared to sustainable development and going beyond our national borders. This governs not only the way we treat the natural world and natural resources but also our motives for exploiting them, which are not exclusively economic.
2. A policy based on international coordination, which includes revitalizing multilateral and multicultural organizations such as the UN, the FAO and the World Bank. The 'Bretton Woods arrangements', stabilizing monetary policy through the IMF, development policy through the World bank and fair trade through the WTO and UNCTAD, will be recalibrated and supplemented with a global policy on natural resources, based for example on the Carbon balance the Phosphate balance. Existing UN organizations will be reformed along these lines or completely overhauled.
Of course the Netherlands cannot organize all this itself, but all around the globe there are many countries and movements working towards the same goals, and they can be drawn on.
3. Internal financial policy will be drastically reformed within the limits laid down by the EU and by monetary authorities. Tax deductible mortgages, pensionable age, land and natural resources policies can be tackled in an integrated way to improve our position with respect to the European limits on national debt, budget deficits and the balance of trade. At the same time, the one-sided monetary policy will be expanded with a system of social and ecological checks and balances such as those proposed by the World Bank in 1996.
4. The policy on knowledge and innovation will be injected with new energy and strengthened. Successful public-private institutions will be strengthened and fiscal and subsidy policies will be geared to them. Mechanisms such as the FES and ICES/KIS will be restored as funding sources for both hard and soft infrastructure. The mechanism for allocating funds will be reviewed and the funding for the NWO, the KNAW and knowledge institutions will be systematically expanded. Sector committees for top sectors (as well as other sectors) will play a major role in drawing up the programme and allocating funding. Collaboration between the sectors will be promoted.
5. International policy will be the cornerstone of our efforts to become a key player among the small countries: a country with an important international position, image and authority. To this end we will focus particularly on intensifying our policy in those areas in which the Netherlands is strong internationally in terms of knowledge and the private sector, e.g. food security and water. A new paradigm for development cooperation as a major component in the international policy will be introduced. The Netherlands is increasingly dependent on its international position as an export country and as the initiator of interventions on a range of key issues such as food security, water and infectious diseases.
6. The education policy will be far more geared to a fair remuneration for professionals, more attention to the main tasks at hand, less moralistic talk from politicians and more trust in teachers. The link between vocational education programmes and the professions they prepare people for will be improved through Public-private partnerships.
Higher education will be strengthened by extending its international orientation, dovetailing the applied science and the theoretical streams in higher education and reducing the burden of administration.
The integration of applied science institutions and academic universities will be taken further, while keeping the dual system, making it easier for students to transfer between the systems and strengthening the research side of applied sciences institutions.
7. Public health policy will receive a boost, focusing on prevention. Healthy aging can be promoted through collaboration between the curative and the preventive health services. Superfluous and complicated structures such as Diagnosis Treatment Combinations can be scrapped.
Cooperative forms of management will be promoted and the obstacles to these posed by a rigid market orientation will be removed. By strengthening cooperatives, health care services will once again become a public, not-for-profit sector. External capital will not be necessary because stakeholders will invest themselves.
8. The financial policy of this business cabinet will be rid of all traces of a rigid book-keeping mentality and will be characterized by the spirit of enterprise. This implies no taboos such as tax-deductible mortgages, and health care for the elderly will be funded through the tax paid by the same age group. There will be far more attention to tax revenues from capital and from large companies, and a rise in tax on bank profits.
9. The security policy and home affairs policy will be based on the belief that the population needs to gain a clearer picture of what the real security issues are (e.g. not antisocial behaviour by Poles but uncontrolled data trafficking). Home affairs policy needs to arrive at a more functional division of tasks between different government bodies, including making clear what the various bodies do not do.
10. Spatial and infrastructure policy focuses on a spatial organization of our country based on functional main structures - meaning that certain functions are given primacy in them, and their use and management are geared to those functions. This is the only way that the tremendous population and mobility density of the country can be managed. We need to make amends for the demands we make beyond our own borders on land, water and other natural resources.
11. The labour market will not be based on vested interests but on dynamism and a strengthening of the potential and capacities we have. We will aim at lifelong learning, and at expanding the opportunities for switching jobs while retaining certain rights.