With the National Growth Fund, the government focuses too much on economic growth. This approach could be at the expense of the ambition for a “competitive climate-neutral and circular economy”, the Council for the Living Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) ruled on Thursday. in a critical report on the first investment proposals that have been made. With the investment fund of 20 billion euros, the government wants to finance projects that make the economy more sustainable and at the same time boost growth.
According to the council, the cabinet focuses too much on economic growth with the fund, which ‘until now’ has resulted in ‘more CO2emissions, higher resource use and serious biodiversity loss”. To illustrate, the researchers cite a “subtle semantic shift” in the job description, where “sustainable earning capacity” has been translated to “structural GDP growth.”
Moreover, in the description of the fund, too little attention is paid to the recovery of biodiversity and the term ‘nature-inclusive’ should be added to the growth strategy, according to the advisory board of the cabinet and parliament.
Too little social
According to the Council, the investment proposals focus too little on social changes, such as the climate issue. Moreover, such projects could also be financed from regular government budgets. The Council also recommends better informing society about the fund’s investment choices.
The state investment fund was launched by the cabinet on Budget Day last year. It is also referred to as the Wopke-Wiebes Fund, because there was a dispute about who came up with it first: Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra (CDA) or – former – Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Eric Wiebes (VVD).
So far, the billion dollar pot has remained virtually untouched. This year, the government expects to spend 216 million euros, while 3.4 billion euros is available to invest. Projects that could still count on initial approval in April, such as extending the North/South line to Schiphol, have not made enough progress in the opinion of the advisers to obtain definitive funding. The projects are still awaiting final approval.
The committee responsible for monitoring the treasury of the Growth Fund, headed by former PvdA minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, simply finds many plans submitted by municipalities, provinces and private parties not good enough. Only four pilot plants where stem cells and living tissues will be grown for medical applications have so far been able to count on funding.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of October 15, 2021