The monitoring of the effectiveness of the regional development decision is hampered by fluctuations in national regional development funding and inadequate effectiveness indicators. It should be ensured through consistent resource planning that the regional development activities are long-term and that there are preconditions for their effectiveness.
The audit examined whether the implementation of the regional development decision 2020–2023 has provided sufficient operating conditions for trade and industry. The audit also examined how changes in the operating environment have affected the implementation of the decision and the operating conditions for trade and industry in different regions. In addition, the audit examined the preparation and implementation of the regional stimulus measures taken as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, as well as the regional variation and the consistency of grounds in the business development aid decisions targeted at the tourism industries. The impact of a targeted regional measure (EU-funded tourism project) on the promotion of tourism in the Cap of the North area was assessed in a case study.
The purpose of the audit was to produce new information about the preparation and implementation of the Government’s regional development decision, and about the impact of changes in the operating environment on the implementation of the decision. The Covid-19 crisis doubled the appropriations for regional support in 2020 compared with 2016–2019. The appropriations of 2021 and 2022 have also been clearly higher than those of 2016–2019. In 2020, the appropriations for regional development were transferred from class 32.50 (Regional development and structural fund policy) to class 32.30 (Employment and entrepreneurship) under the main title of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. In 2020, nearly EUR 680 million was allocated in appropriations to regional development.
Regional stimulus measures resulting from the Covid-19 epidemic have promoted the implementation of the regional development decision. However, significant annual variations in the national regional development funding generally undermine the implementation of regional development activities. The implementation of the objectives and the dialogue with regions and towns would require more consistent and long-term resource planning. The National Audit Office recommended that the ministries responsible for the activities in the focus areas defined in the regional development decision, particularly the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, should set more comprehensive indicators in the future implementation plan of the regional development decision to enable assessment of the effectiveness of the measures taken in the focus areas. It should be ensured through consistent resource planning that the activities are long-term and that there are preconditions for their effectiveness.