III. Sustainable growth and innovation
The Netherlands must secure and strengthen its position in the years ahead among the five most competitive economies. Our innovative businesses and first-class academic and research institutions provide us with an excellent basis for doing so. A compact, strong government which has its finances in order can make an important contribution towards strengthening this basis.
The Netherlands will emerge stronger from the crisis by making sound choices, by opting for reform, spending cuts and ambition. Businesses, academic and research institutions, and government will focus their innovative energies on making the transition to a sustainable economy and green growth, partly with a view to strengthening the competitiveness of the Dutch economy. In these endeavours, we will ensure that government is a reliable partner that knows what it wants to achieve, acts decisively and holds fast to the course it has set.
The successful partnership developed between businesses, scientific institutions, regions and government under the top sector policy will be continued and integrated into the new financial framework.
• €275 million will remain available via the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for programme-based research for the top sectors, and the public-private partnerships for excellence in fundamental research will be continued.
• An extra €150 million will be made available to strengthen fundamental research, €50 million of which will come from reprioritisation. A substantial portion will be used to enable us to compete for extra funding from the European research programme Horizon 2020.
• We will release €110 million, by virtue of reallocations within the budget, to further stimulate cooperation between businesses and academic and research institutions. Generic grants and tax incentives, on the other hand, will be reduced.
• The differences between the tax treatment of entrepreneurs and employees have increased in recent years. A ‘profit box’ will be introduced in 2015 with a view to achieving greater balance.
We aim to conclude a technology pact (Techniekpact 2020) with businesses and educational institutions. It will be founded on the mutual interests of businesses and educational institutions and the sector’s own ambitions. The technology pact will include agreements on the following points at a minimum:
• transparency on the part of educational institutions and businesses towards pupils and students about career prospects;
• creating sufficient work placements;
• offering practically oriented pupils a shorter route through vocational education to promote their progress through the educational system;
• investigating the options for changing the funding of secondary vocational education (MBO) institutions and/or providing more private sector cofinancing, including an investment fund for modern equipment and resources for engineering and technology courses;
• reducing the dropout rate in technical education by means of improved structure and more intensive guidance;
• a sharp reduction in the number of centres of expertise on vocational education, training and the labour market and the transfer of tasks to the Education-Business Alliance.
We will pursue a realistic and ambitious green growth strategy, with due focus on space and guarantees for the future. The Netherlands has everything we need to make a significant contribution to the rapid development of new sources of energy, such as solar power, wind power, biomass and geothermal energy: a high-calibre chemicals industry, an innovative agricultural sector, large ports and a strong energy sector. This is a necessary development from the point of view of climate change and in view of the finite nature of raw materials, and at the same time offers a challenge to innovative companies. A large number of promising bio-based initiatives have already been launched in recent years. This bio-based economy can become one of the pillars supporting green growth. It is our intention to set out a stable and ambitious policy for the long term that enjoys broad support in parliament and society at large. At international level, the involvement of as many countries as possible will be sought, in order to increase opportunities for Dutch businesses.
• The Netherlands will work for an ambitious international climate policy. New objectives for 2020, 2030 and beyond must provide a spur to technological progress and ensure environmental balance in the future. Our international aim is a completely sustainable energy supply by 2050.
• Our target is a 16% share for renewables by 2020. To encourage innovation, an optimum mix of measures will be employed including grants (the Renewable Energy Grant Scheme SDE+), and possibly requirements for energy suppliers and obligations to blend biofuels in fossil fuels. These measures will be taken with due regard for the competitiveness of energy-intensive sectors and the impact on jobs. Compensation will be provided for the increased burden of levies arising at the end of this government’s term. In 2016, progress will be assessed and a decision will be made on how to take the process forward.
• Energy conservation will be prioritised. The Green Deals approach will be extended: at least one conservation deal will be concluded with energy companies and housing associations to accelerate improvements to the sustainability of existing homes. Energy conservation in offices, schools and other buildings will also be promoted in this manner via energy companies. The government will support these endeavours by removing obstacles in legislation where possible.
• A tax incentive will be introduced for the small-scale sustainable generation of solar and other power that is not eligible for central government grants. It will take the form of a reduced rate in the first energy tax bracket. The reduced rate will apply to locally generated electricity supplied to small-scale private consumers by cooperatives of these consumers. It will be funded on a tax-neutral basis by means of a generic increase in the standard rate levied in the first energy tax bracket.
• In order to bring down the cost of offshore wind power more quickly, the government will introduce joint initiatives with energy companies and the Dutch offshore industry to encourage innovation in this promising sector. A study will be undertaken with system operators to ascertain how the necessary transmission infrastructure for electricity generation at sea can be established.
• Electric vehicles offer the Netherlands many opportunities. Agreements on the recharging infrastructure will be made with system operators, energy companies and local authorities in order to provide a further stimulus to the growth in electric mobility.
• Biomass should first be used for the highest grade application for which it is suitable (cascading) and the sustainable production and origin of biomass should be guaranteed.
• The government’s aim is a circular economy. It will seek to encourage the domestic and European market for sustainable raw materials and the recycling of scarce materials.
• The agricultural sector is an important engine for the economy. The Netherlands is the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural produce. Farmers and market gardeners therefore deserve to be given the scope to do business and to be properly recompensed for their contribution to the man-made landscape and nature conservation.
The effective safeguarding of public interests must be combined with the creation of scope for innovation. We will therefore continue to take strong action to reduce the regulatory burden and we will adopt a cohesive approach in the various sectors in the areas of regulation, steering and supervision.
• We are setting a course for a structural reduction by 2017 of €2.5 billion (compared with 2012) in the regulatory burden on businesses, professionals and the general public. To achieve this, the introduction of new rules is being linked to the scrapping of existing rules.
• We will also reduce the less measurable but very noticeable regulatory burden by working with stakeholders in at least 15 heavily regulated sectors and fields to examine perceived problems and find specific solutions. These sectors will include chemicals, logistics, agri-food, life sciences, construction, youth care, education and policing.
• The statutory closing of shops on Sundays will be ended. It will be up to municipal authorities to draw up further rules on this matter if they wish.
• Where necessary, we will reshape supervision in conjunction with local and regional authorities in order to reduce the supervisory burden while retaining effectiveness.
• The provision of services by public authorities must be improved. By 2017 at the latest, businesses and the public must be able to conduct their business with local authorities – such as applications for permits – online. Entrepreneurs who use the Ondernemingsdossier, a scheme to ease the regulatory burden for business, will only have to provide their business details once, which will then be shared with the relevant authorities.
• There will be ten public-private ‘breakthrough’ projects, partly aimed at increasing the use of knowledge of ICT among SMEs, in the top sectors and in sectors such as education and health care.
• By improving regulation and governance, we can increase the major contributions to our country’s prosperity and wellbeing made by housing associations, pension funds, healthcare institutions, schools and railway companies. The government will present proposals to this end.
Entrepreneurs need space in order to grow. It can be created by making ICT-based innovations, reducing the regulatory burden and compliance costs, and above all improving access to credit and capital.
• The Business Finance Guarantee Scheme will be made permanent, with a guarantee ceiling of €400 million per year. This will enable entrepreneurs to continue to take out bank loans and obtain bank guarantees.
• To be better able to help small business startups, the credit ceiling for the microfinance organisation Qredits will be raised from €50,000 to €150,000. An agreement will be made with Qredits and the banks to put this into effect.
• Within the existing Innovation Fund for SMEs, we will create scope for providing more risk capital to young innovative companies.
• New alternative forms of financing such as credit unions, crowdfunding and SME bonds will be supported by means of promotion, the removal of obstacles in legislation and the application of knowledge and existing instruments.
A healthy financial sector is vital for the functioning of our economy. But if banks take excessive risks, they can inflict considerable damage on our economy, as we know from our recent past. We do not want to repeat that experience. This is why we will be pushing ahead with fundamental reforms of the banking sector, enabling banks once again to make a positive contribution to the recovery of the real economy.
• A compulsory bankers’ oath will be introduced including provisions for strict penalties should it be broken.
• The Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets and De Nederlandsche Bank (the Dutch central bank) will screen not only senior bankers, but also bank staff responsible for high-risk transactions.
• Products that are not in the interests of the customer may not be sold. The duty of care incumbent on banks will be laid down in statute.
• Acting on the recommendations of the recently instituted committee on the structure of Dutch banks, the government will present proposals to improve the protection of individuals’ savings from risky banking practices.
• Between 2013 and 2018, capital requirements for banks (Basel III) will be gradually raised to substantially reduce the likelihood of financial crises. We will bring forward the growth path for the additional buffers for systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs) in order to further limit risks. We will do so in a responsible manner, based on a risk assessment and an international comparison, taking competitiveness into account.
• The Netherlands supports the step-by-step creation of a European banking union. Effective European banking supervision should be established and balance sheets cleaned up as quickly as possible. In addition, under strict conditions, direct support to banks by the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) may be in order. As the final steps a single banking resolution mechanism and a European deposit guarantee scheme should be established.
• Organisations that are wholly or partly publicly funded are prohibited from speculating with complex financial products like derivatives. They may insure themselves against interest rate risks. Compliance will be checked as part of the annual audit.
• An enhanced cooperation procedure is under way within the European Union with a view to introducing a tax on the financial sector. The Netherlands will join this initiative provided that our pension funds are exempted, no disproportionate effects arise from levying the tax in conjunction with the bank tax, and revenues flow back to the member states.
• ABN AMRO can only be reprivatised once the financial sector is stable. There must be sufficient market interest, the business must be ready, and the state must be able to recoup as much as possible of its total investment. In the light of these considerations we are also studying options other than a full stock market flotation.
• The variable component of remuneration in the financial sector will be subject to a statutory maximum of 20% of the fixed component.
• The capacity of the Tax and Customs Administration and the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service / Economic Investigation Service will be increased to enable them to tackle abuses, fraud, illegal constructions and money laundering more effectively.