Moving from A to B
Author: Bastiaan Beth
Successful public governance is a phenomenon that is hard to describe. It is hard to measure public success because people tend to take successful governance for granted. The easiest way to measure public success is to look at failure. Because the moment something is not governed well, people will notice.
The Dutch government is responsible for a good infrastructure. This is a public service. Personally, I travel by train almost on a daily basis and I noticed that everything around public transport is very well organized. I travel between Amsterdam and Utrecht and there is a train in both directions every ten minutes. The Dutch government found a way to make this important government task work, by outsourcing it to independent state-owned companies. They decided that ProRail is responsible for all the train tracks around the country, which is a big responsibility. The Nationale Spoorwegen (NS) is instructed to make sure all passengers can travel by train on the most important rail trajectories, the so-called main rail network (“Afspraken Rijksoverheid met NS en ProRail”, n.d.). An important task of the government is to protect the interest of the traveler, and they did by making agreements about performance targets with both Prorail and the NS. These companies can be seen as semi-governmental organization, since all shares are held by the government (“Organisatie”, n.d.; “Corporate Governance”, n.d.).
Fukuyama (2016) gives three reasons why governance has shifted out of the state toward either nongovernmental or semi-governmental actors. The first reason comes from the ideological right. The ideologically right-wing argument is that modern governments became too big and inefficient. By outsourcing certain responsibilities, they make sure efficiency is guaranteed.
The second reason comes from the ideological left, which has an inherent distrust of hierarchy. The ideologically left-wing argument is that democratic participation from citizens and other non-state actors benefits democratic public interest.
Finally, Fukuyama (2016) names the benefits of a collaborative government. By outsourcing these responsibilities to private parties, they enable the services to happen in the best way possible. Private parties are more flexible in delivering these services, stand closer to the public, and are more aware of the local conditions.
The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management is still accountable for the railway system on behalf of the Dutch government. To make sure ProRail and NS fulfill their commitments, they can be fined by the government (“Afspraken Rijksoverheid met NS en ProRail”, n.d.). This is how government makes sure that private parties can be held accountable when they do not hold up their end.
By outsourcing these responsibilities, the Dutch government makes sure the public service is done at its best. They enable me to move from A to B whenever I need to.
Fukuyama, F. (2016). Governance: What Do We Know, and How Do We Know it. Annual Review of Political Science, 19(1), 89-105.
Afspraken Rijksoverheid met NS en ProRail. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2018, from https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/openbaar-vervoer/afspraken-rijksoverheid-met-ns-en-prorail
Organisatie. (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2018, from
Corporate Governance. (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2018, from