NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 13:42
The national government must strengthen the regions and prosperity must be increased. This is stated in an advisory report on the vulnerability of the regions compared to economically strong areas such as the Randstad and the Eindhoven region.
The researchers (Council for the Environment and Infrastructure, the Council for Public Administration and the Council for Public Health & Society) make a number of proposals.
For example, they want the locations of government services to be better distributed. They also advocate more housing projects in the region and the establishment of branches of educational institutions. This should strengthen the relationship between the national government and the regions.
In their report Every region counts! they conclude that regions are being disadvantaged, especially on the edges of the country. Primary schools close, GPs disappear, shops close and bus stops are cancelled. This has major consequences for community life.
“The quality of life in villages, neighborhoods and communities is under pressure and this leads to disadvantages in various regions.” These include differences in health (the average life expectancy in some areas is seven years lower than elsewhere) and the level of average income is lagging behind. The availability of cultural facilities and meeting places in certain regions is also below par,” the report states.
Large regional differences
The regional differences are large, in some areas the backlogs are piling up. This is not new, but inequality has increased further in recent years, according to research in five ‘example regions’: the Veenkoloniën, Parkstad Limburg, Twente, the Kop van Noord-Holland and Zeeuws-Vlaanderen.
The benchmark in the survey was the concept of ‘broad prosperity’, which is everything that people find important in life. “Not only disposable income, but also, for example, health, education, environment and living environment, social connection, personal development and safety.”
‘Not seen and skipped’
People in the regions have the feeling that they are being passed over when the government invests in all sorts of areas. “They feel that the national government does not understand what is going on in the region and is too remote.” The researchers confirm that this is the case. Investments mainly benefit areas where there are plenty of opportunities. “They make what is already powerful more powerful. That is a conscious choice of the national government.”
As a result, people in the regions do not feel seen and understood. This has consequences for health, among other things. In some areas, there are more people with overweight and chronic conditions. “Life expectancy is among the lowest in the Netherlands, especially in the Veenkoloniën and Parkstad Limburg.”
The backlogs are also large in other areas. Due to the closure of schools, young people have to travel further and further to get to school, hospitals are further apart than in urban areas and there are also fewer shops and sports facilities. Incomes are often lower and participation in the labor market is lower. In a number of regions, incapacity for work is relatively high.
A new perspective is needed, policy in which every region counts, say the researchers, who come up with recommendations for broad prosperity throughout the Netherlands. The national interest should not always weigh most heavily in policy and investments, the government must also look at the impact on the regions.
They can only develop healthily if education, care, work and culture are within reach. To this end, an inventory must be made of what the needs are for each region and plans must be made, a so-called opportunity agenda.
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