You can read the title of my weblog in two ways. Yes or no with the brackets. How you read this may depend on how you are in public administration or how you view politics. And that is not very strange. Both movements occur among administrators and politicians.
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Everything is political
On the one hand, there are the politicians for whom everything is political. On the one hand, they make use of compelling visions, but also regularly make use of pre-hopeless motions. After all, symbolic politics is also political. Or make politics of agendas and procedures. Policy continuity is not important to them. If it is more convenient to change course, it will. Everything is political. This is often tiring and disruptive and that is sometimes the very goal of the politicians involved. For them, politics is not the means, but the end.
Not everything is political
On the other hand, there are politicians who emphasize that not everything is political. For them, there are fixed values, fundamental principles, and lines within which a politician operates and which people want to adhere to. Governance continuity is of paramount importance to these politicians. They name subjects and seize moments that transcend politics. They put the rule of law and good governance first in their actions and they also want to keep the debate in order. These politicians apply a kind of political hygiene.
Consistency of policy
Neither of these two styles is left or right. These styles can be found on both sides of the political spectrum. Yet the style in which ‘everything is political’ is dominant is not good for our country, provinces and municipalities. Inhabitants need stability, reliability, perspective, and trust-inspiring leadership. Not a street fight or ‘village politics’. This requires a certain consistency of policy and a certain distance from the issues of the day. And exactly this also applies to the relationships between the levels of government.
Dealing with administrative structure and financial system agreements
Financial and administrative relationships require care, consistency, and restraint. Yes, political principles prevail over technocratic implementation. Yes, that can and must be tinkered with a certain regularity. Yes, system agreements must also go along and be adapted to the times in which we live. However, taking an opportunistic approach to administrative structure and financial system agreements quickly leads to cluttered up and – political or financial – accidents and, at some point, an inevitable failure of policy or problems in implementation. Everyone knows from their own domestic experience: if you do not regularly clean up the shed and just mess around, there is only one option waiting at any time: the big cleaning. There is much more to it than just keeping it in order.
Decentralization and the financial system
In the meantime, the sounds are getting louder: the decentralization in its current form is stagnating (SCP) or, according to some, rattling on all sides(Foundation decentralized administration). In addition to all the otherwise good analyzes that apply to this, in my view, this also has everything to do with the hasty transfer in 2015, the enormous budgetary interventions that went with it, and the political capriciousness with which the decentralization had to contend in recent years on both policy and financial level. Depending on the political whims, interim interventions in policy were or were not taken. And depending on what did or did not ‘work out’ politically, they decided on (usually no) money. Too little policy space for municipalities and too little money for the requested task performance. That does not go well for long. Meanwhile, the administrative and financial system is squeaking and creaking at the seams.