According to pension administrators Corien Wortmann and Gerard van Olphen, the government is lacking a “clear plan”
Invest more in the Netherlands. That is what pension fund ABP and APG executives want. But that can only be done if the government makes it possible. Currently, there are too few opportunities to invest in large public works as an institutional investor. That has to change, board chairs Corien Wortmann (ABP) and Gerard van Olphen (APG) argue in a joint interview in de Telegraaf. Wortmann: "If we were to invest an additional 1% of ABP's capital in the Netherlands, we would be talking about 4.5 billion".
To accelerate economic recovery after the corona crisis, investments in the Netherlands are badly needed. That is why the government created the National Growth Fund. This fund contains €20 billion for projects in the areas of infrastructure, research and development and education.
In principle, it is a great initiative, but no one but the government “may” participate. So, there is no place for private investment. “A missed opportunity,” says Van Olphen in de Telegraaf: "The Growth Fund is fully focused on the €20 billion in public investments. But surely you should want the €20 billion to act as a flywheel, a catalyst for private investment".
No clear plan
According to Van Olphen and Wortmann, the Dutch government lacks a clear plan for deploying public money and private investments together. For example, for the development and maintenance of infrastructure and schools. But these so-called public-private partnerships are necessary for pension funds to be able to invest more in our country. According to Wortmann, this is what ABP participants want: "It is important to our participants that pension euros contribute to economic growth, employment and better housing in the Netherlands. These pension euros are now mostly invested in foreign projects. Van Olphen mentions a few examples in the interview: "Streetcars and metro lines in Barcelona and Madrid, toll roads in Italy and France, the Melbourne ring road, Brussels Airport, solar parks in California and China.
But it is also possible in the Netherlands. Wortmann: "There are a few good examples of public-private partnerships. The renovation of the Ministry of Finance was one of them. And now the maintenance of the Afsluitdijk.
According to van Olphen, Belgium is doing much better: "The Flemish government set up a fund and distanced it from the government. The government itself put €90 million into it. That was supplemented with €500 to 600 million in bank financing. And then another €1.5 billion was needed for thirty years of maintenance. That was private money that the government freed up by investing €90 million itself.”
So, what now? According to Van Olphen and Wortmann there is indeed a solution. More opportunities to invest in Dutch public works, so that pension capital can also be invested in them. This would also provide an opportunity to make use of the knowledge and experience available in the investment sector. APG's top investors can then start planning for investment opportunities with them at an early stage. Wortmann emphasizes that the participant’s interest is still paramount in this endeavor, of course: "This is our participants’ pension money we’re talking about. So, we will have to deal with it in a responsible way. That means that projects must also yield returns.”
Read the entire interview here