National government is distorting the market in several sectors by competing unfairly with private companies, the Financieele Dagblad reports on Thursday.
In particular, activities which the government has privatised in the transport, printing, IT and advisory sectors are now facing competition from new government bodies, the FD says.
These include, for example, the new government printing office VijfKeerBlauw which the state has set up and which is competing with privatised printing service SDU. The government has also set up its own courier service IPKD and a number of advisory and training bodies.
Jaap Uijlenbroek, a senior civil servant at the home affairs ministry, admitted to the paper that the boundaries are ‘blurred’.
But at the same time, investigations have begun into whether some services, such as VijfKeerBlauw, should be continued or whether it is cheaper to use private firms, he said.
Many firms have seen their income hit by competition from government firms. Leo Smits, director of privatised training institute PBLQ, says his turnover has halved in recent years.
‘This is mainly because of competition from state acadamies which have been set up and offer all sorts of programmes which are the same as ours,’ he told the paper.
This shift towards a more ‘entreprenurial government’ stems from the official strategy of lessening the reliance of ministries on external staff and organisations and of centralising activities.
However, legislation introduced last year to ensure this does not lead to unfair competition with the private sector is full of holes, many companies say. For example, they do not cover ministry-to-ministry contracts or activities which take place ‘in the national interest’, the paper points out.
‘I think it dubious,’ professor Paul Frissen told the FD. ‘The government is doing work which we have good Dutch industries to do.’
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