Watering can principle

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The watering can principle is used to describe a procedure for the distribution of grants or subsidies , in which neither the chronological order of the notifications of need nor the urgency of the subsidy, but rather the amount of subsidies applied for - if at all - is decisive. A characteristic of the watering can principle is that the subsidies are distributed evenly over the entire target group “like a watering can ” without a detailed examination of the actual needs , without weighting the possibly different urgency of the individual cases.

As with the greyhound principle and the lawnmower principle , strictly speaking, there is no discretionary decision . As a result, the granting of subsidies can be automated quite well, but the actually intended purpose of the subsidy may not be achieved in individual cases because the funds that ultimately reach the recipient are not sufficient.

A great advantage of the watering can principle compared to state or economically funded individual projects is that the bureaucratic effort involved in awarding, accompanying and securing projects is minimized, and unilateral benefit is largely excluded. Large projects, in particular, often harbor the risk that funds will be awarded to assert personal interests . The watering can principle, on the other hand, is based on the principle of equality , according to which essentially the same may not be treated essentially unequally.


The counterpart of the watering can principle is preferential support for growth centers (“lighthouse policy”), that is, support for strong and central business locations with limited space and content .

Individual evidence

  1. Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com): The watering can principle | DW | 05/25/2015. Retrieved April 6, 2018 .