Performance Budgeting in the Netherlands

In a co-authored chapter in this book which just appeared, we provide an overview of the development of Performance Budgeting in the Netherlands, both at the level of central government and at the level of municipalities. In central government, there has been a development toward Accountable Budgeting, addressing three ‘what’-questions: what does the minister want to achieve?, what will the minister do in order to achieve the goals?, and what does the civil service apparatus resorting under the responsibility of the minister cost? In municipalities, there was a development toward Direct Costing (no allocation of overhead cost to policy areas) and the mandatory publication of financial and policy indicators. In a general sense, the chapter discusses that the translation of programs, their activities and their resource consumption into numbers is connected to control from a distance, both in terms of space and time. Such translation is not a simple linear and straightforward process, and is inherently political. Numbers are thus mediators rather than representations; they are matters of concern rather than matters of fact. When used properly, they have the potential to build trust.