June 1, 2003

CPB in focus

CPB in Focus: International committee of independent scientists publishes review report on CPB

Press release
The CPB Review Committee 2003, an international committee of independent economic scientists, has published its final report today. 'CPB in Focus' is the result of a thorough review of CPB, including its organisation, models, performance and prospects, both in the Netherlands and internationally.

The Committee advises the Bureau to strengthen its ties with academic research, and to focus even more on questions related to structural economic reform. Only in this way CPB can realise its ambition to be among the top group of international institutes dealing with policy research. This will require a reallocation of means and priorities of CPB.

The Review Committee is impressed by the quality of CPB's performance. In its review, which relies partly on interviews with clients and colleague-institutes of CPB, the Committee finds that the Bureau comes to the fore as independent and objective. Its conclusion: CPB, with its strongly motivated staff and able leadership, has achieved a central role in the Dutch policymaking process.

The 2003 review was CPB's own initiative. The Central Planning Commission (CPB's independent advisory body, with members from universities and the business sector) advised on the composition of the Committee. Earlier, in 1997, another review committee also visited CPB. The 2003 Committee was chaired by Professor Klaus F. Zimmermann (president of DIW Berlin and IZA Bonn). Members were professors Daniel Gros (CEPS, Brussels), Robert Haveman (University of Wisconsin-Madison), David Newbery (Cambridge University), Rick van der Ploeg (University of Amsterdam, EUI Florence) and Piet Rietveld (Free University Amsterdam). The Committee visited CPB in the second week of April, and interviewed a number of persons from outside and within the Bureau. In preparation for the review, the Bureau carried out an extensive self-assessment (Through the looking glass).

In its final report, the Committee makes some specific recommendations for the bureau to improve its relations with the academic world; for instance, attracting foreign economists as temporary guest researchers by instituting a Tinbergen Fellowship. Also, CPB should stimulate its young staff members to publish even more in academic journals. In this context, the Committee advises CPB to make its models directly accessible for outsiders, and recommends the institution of a scientific advisory council.

By giving greater emphasis to structural reform and microeconomic analyses, CPB can contribute substantially to the policy debate in the areas of education, health service, pensions, labour market, residential construction, energy, transport and infrastructure. In these fields, the Committee sees an important task reserved for the Bureau in the systematic evaluation of policy measures. This is an underdeveloped field of research in the Netherlands, according to the Committee. The Bureau should also use a larger share of the available capacity to adapt the macro- and longer-term models to the latest academic standards and knowledge. These changes will all require a reallocation of resources and labour input. The Committee gives a number of suggestions to reduce the time allotted to macroeconomic forecasting activities.
Next to the general recommendations, the Committee presents a number of suggestions with respect to the organisational structure of CPB, its HRM policy and its research themes. It advocates, for instance, a comprehensive study on the longer-term effects of wage moderation, in particular on the balance of payments, the production structure and innovation and growth.


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CPB has a long and distinguished history. The current structure and operation of CPB are basically sound, and the contributions it makes to policymaking in the Netherlands are substantial. CPB places a high priority on objectivity, independence, and non-advocacy. The Review Committee finds that CPB has successfully maintained its reputation in pursuing this worthy and essential objective. This perspective permeates the entire CPB staff. The Review Committee was also impressed by the recent attempt of CPB to strengthen its human resources management.

In this report, we recommend that CPB should intensify its links with academic institutions by seeking strategic partnerships and focus more on structural reform issues by shifting away resources from macro forecasting to microeconomic modelling. We are confident that CPB, with its highly qualified and strongly motivated staff, can successfully continue to make important contributions to the policy debate in areas such as education, health care, pensions, labour markets, housing, energy, transport, and infrastructure.



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