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Chapter 3 The ‘Empty Nest’ Syndrome: Dutch Ministries after the Separation of Policy and Administration

New Steering Concepts in Public Management

ISBN: 978-1-78052-110-7, eISBN: 978-1-78052-111-4

Publication date: 24 October 2011


From the early 1980s on the Dutch national government, just like many other western governments, implemented several administrative reforms to solve problems like fiscal deficits and decreased public legitimacy (Pollitt & Bouckaert, 2004). Privatisation was one of the first reforms, but never became very popular in the Netherlands. Dutch politicians and civil servants preferred a ‘softer’ modernisation of the state, by separating policy and administration. This meant that the execution of public tasks and/or the implementation of policies were delegated to executive bodies at arms' length of the government. In some cases, existing societal, private or commercial organisations were charged with a particular task, but in most cases executive units from ministries were disaggregated and hived off. Modernisation of the state thus resulted in a strong increase in the number of executive agencies, of different legal types (OECD, 2002). I will refer to this trend as agencification (Pollitt & Talbot, 2004; Pollitt, Talbot, Caulfield, & Smullen, 2004).


van Thiel, S. (2011), "Chapter 3 The ‘Empty Nest’ Syndrome: Dutch Ministries after the Separation of Policy and Administration", Groeneveld, S. and Van De Walle, S. (Ed.) New Steering Concepts in Public Management (Research in Public Policy Analysis and Management, Vol. 21), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 25-40.



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