The Expert Government

Government has been making a comeback in recent years. For the best part of two decades, severe cutbacks were made in public administration and the idea prevailed that government should be modest in its ambitions. Those days are over, however, and there are renewed calls for a government that actively plays a substantive and guiding role. Yet doubts exist as to whether the government still has sufficient expertise to fulfil that role. ‘The Expert Government’ project is focused on examining what knowledge, skills and competences the government needs to possess or regain.

This ‘return of the state’ can be seen in public housing, as more and more parties are calling for increased government intervention and centralized planning. Another example is the pandemic, which showed that an active and competent government is indispensable in times of acute crisis.

Major challenges such as the energy transition also call for an active government with a strong guiding role, capable of making or organising the necessary investments in our infrastructure, for example. The question, however, is whether today’s government still has the knowledge and expertise to successfully fulfil this more substantive and guiding role. Serious doubts exist as to whether that is the case. Knowledge drain has significantly impacted the government in recent decades. According to the Council for Public Administration, the government today lacks substantive in-house expertise and practical experience, and is far too reliant on external consultancies.

This advisory project therefore addresses the following question: given the major challenges facing the government and society, what type of in-house expertise does the government need to possess or regain? And how do we ensure that the government not only employs and retains good people, but also has the capacity and procedures to guarantee that their knowledge and skills are put to effective use? The WRR is addressing these questions from the perspective of national as well as local government.