‘The poor should benefit from lower interest rates too’

‘The poor should benefit from lower interest rates too’

People are paying crippling interest rates on their debts with banks and mail order companies. If the wealthy can persuade the government to lower the tax on wealth then the poor should benefit from lower interest rates too, writes Annemarie van Gaal.The Dutch are a frugal lot and for quite a while our savings have been a nice little earner for the state. For the last 15 years it has been assuming that the return on your savings is a nicely taxable 4%.No saver and hardly any investor has achieved this result in the last few years and even the supreme court called the taxed 4% return ‘an exorbitantly heavy burden on savers’.With a historically low interest rate and a negative interest rate looming on the horizon, the lobby started by the wealthy part of the nation looks as if it will be successful in convincing the government to change the tax on wealth to a more realistic level. No longer would wealth tax be a tax on ‘what could have been’ but a tax on returns that have actually materialised, a much fairer state of affairs.Far less easyThe wealthy know how to stand up for themselves. I want to talk about the people who have a far less easy time of it: families in debt, without any savings whatsoever. Filming a new series of the RLT4 programme Een dubbeltje op zijn kant (Penny-wise, DN), I once again find myself confronted with sad stories of people heavily in debt with banks, mail order companies and credit companies.Debt is expensive. Every family pays an average interest and cost of 15% to 25% on top of the amount owed. They may have accepted their bank’s generous offer of paying their debt in instalments using a credit card. It sounds pretty good, and it is for the banks, at an interest rate of 14%.OutstandingAdded to the yearly costs, this means another outstanding cost which can go up to as much as 25% of the amount owed. Mail order companies allow for payment in instalments but at Wehkamp, for instance, customers are looking at a 14% interest rate and a minimum of €8 paid into your personal ‘balance sheet account’.14% is outrageous of course, but it is within the confines of the law. Years ago credit lenders were allowed to put a top-up of up to 12% on the legal interest rate. The legal interest rate is at 2% at the moment so 14% is allowed and applied almost across the board.Over the topThat 12% may have been appropriate then but is now completely over the top, especially compared to what banks themselves pay to attract money or the interest rate they are giving to savers.If we lower the tax on wealth to a more realistic level, why can’t banks and mail order companies not adapt their interest rates to help people pay off their debts? Who will make the first move? Just see it as doing a good deed for the less well-off in our society.Annemarie van Gaal is an investor and entrepreneurThis article appeared earlier in the Financieele Dagblad  More >

'Cost benefit analyses are crucial'

‘The Dutch government needs to do more cost benefit analyses’ What Jesse Klaver, newly-appointed GroenLinks leader, calls ‘economism’ could well be the life-line of compassion in society instead of its nemesis, writes economist Mathijs Bouman.Lesson 1 in the Politician’s Handbook: create an enemy. Choose an element in society which will serve as a scapegoat. Provide people with a focus for their anger. Then promise to eliminate the problem.It’s not a lesson wasted on Jesse Klaver. During his first speech as the new leader of GroenLinks he revealed the party’s latest enemy: ‘economism’. Public debate in our society is dominated by it, says Klaver. Every aspect of our society is reduced to a simple cost and benefit calculation when all around us more important matters are pushed to the side lines. Justice, for instance, and sustainability. And, lest anyone forget, compassion.NihilismBeautiful words. At last here’s a party which promises to end the nihilism of the profit prophets, the efficiency preachers and the spreadsheet...  More >

'The Dutch are anarchists at heart'

‘The Dutch love making rules and regulations but they’re anarchists at heart’ Life coach Madeleine Lenagh has lived in the Netherlands for 45 years but refuses to ride a bike. If she ever had to leave, she would spend her last day looking for sea eagles.How did you end up living in the Netherlands? When I was 21, I went walkabout. My money ran out in the Netherlands and I didn’t want to go home yet. I found an au-pair job for six months and sold my return ticket to buy winter clothes. I never got around to leaving.How would you describe yourself:  an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I guess I would describe myself as an international. I happen to have put down roots in the Netherlands but it could have been anywhere.How long do you plan to stay? Well, I’ve been here for 45 years now. I think I’m here to stay.Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak fluent Dutch. I started out taking care of three boys aged five, seven and nine, so I had to dive in.  Plus, my Dutch friends were kind enough to always speak Dutch...  More >

'Catch those Dutch job killers'

‘Five job killers are destroying employment in the Netherlands’ Five job killers are destroying employment in the Netherlands. Economists Willem Vermeend and Rick van de Ploeg take a look at ways of tackling them.According to figures out last week, the Dutch economy shows a 4% growth rate for the first quarter compared to the same period in 2014. A greater rate of investment, increased exports and greater consumer spending are fuelling this growth.At the same time, unemployment is hovering around the 7% mark. In spite of the plethora of measures set out in this cabinet’s Social Accord it shows no signs of going down.New jobsIn order to change this, new jobs are needed. Civil servant jobs and jobs at big companies are in decline and it’s the small and medium-sized businesses and start-ups who will have to step into the breach. But their efforts are being hindered by out-of-date social security regulations and tax and premium demands.This cabinet’s lack of foresight doesn’t help either: new jobs through digitalisation and new...  More >

Dental care in the Netherlands

Dental care in the Netherlands The Dutch visit their dentist on a regular basis, and as a result, only a relatively small part of the population has badly cared-for teeth. In the Netherlands, dental care is provided by university-educated dentists, all of whom are government-registered.The quality of the care, also in comparison with other countries, is excellent. The Dutch visit their dentist on a regular basis - approximately 85% go once or twice a year.Types of practices Almost all dental practices in the Netherlands are private, there are no state practices. Most of them are modest undertakings, with one dentist and one assistant. In the larger cities there are larger practices, consisting of several dentists, a number of assistants and dental hygienists. Such a structure allows the practice to diversify its services. Many practices in the Netherlands are full and consequently cannot take on any new patients.InsuranceDentistry is privatised in the Netherlands, i.e. the patient is responsible for...  More >

Getty is still Dutch Eurovision queen

40 years on Getty Kaspers is still Dutch Eurovision queen The last time the Netherlands won the Eurovision Song Contest was 40 years ago,  when Teach-In took the honours with the infamous 'Ding-a-dong'. Singer Getty Kaspers talks to DutchNews.nl about Eurovision then and now.'Ding-a-dong every hour, when you pick a flower, even when your lover is gone, gone, gone.' So goes the kitschy but catchy chorus of Ding-A-Dong, the song that, 40 years ago, made Teach-In Eurovision champions.The song - in stark contrast to the quieter ballads put forth by hopefuls representing the Netherlands in recent years, including this year’s Walk On penned by Anouk and performed by Trijntje Oosterhuis - is a 2.5-minute explosion of infectiously upbeat, xylophonic sound accompanied by quirky, nonsensical lyrics earnestly sung by Getty Kaspers.EasierKaspers, who was 27 when the song won Eurovision in 1975, says the competition was rather different in those times. 'It was easier,' she says. 'We only had to perform once before being selected to go to...  More >

10 inspirational Dutch women

10 inspirational Dutch women From speaking 14 languages in the 17th century to exploring the Sahara; from taking the Olympics by storm to defying the German occupiers - here is a list of inspirational Dutch women who’ve made it into the history books for reasons other than their appearance. In no particular order.Anna Maria van Schurman Born in Cologne in 1607, this well educated 17th century woman spent most of her life in the Netherlands where she was permitted an education. She spoke 14 languages including Hebrew, Arabic, Ethiopian, Syriac and Aramaic – and excelled in literature, art and music. Later she was the personal assistant of Jean de Labadie remaining heavily involved in his cult religion, Labadism, until her death.Elisabeth Wandscherer This bold lady was one of the 16 wives of Jan van Leiden, dictator and leading figure of the Anabaptist commune in Munster during the early 1500s. Elisabeth criticised her husband for letting the poor of the city starve while Van Leiden and his entourage...  More >

'Don't trivialise or moralise on drugs'

‘Moralising about drug use doesn’t help, but neither does trivialising the problems’ It is not a good idea to be too cavalier - or moralistic - about drug use, write Ninette van Hasselt, Ferry Goossens and Margriet van Laar, who all work for the Trimbos addiction centre in Amsterdam.The world seems to be divided into two camps where drugs are concerned: the frivolous (what harm can it do) and the moralistic (using drugs is very, very bad). Recently, Loes Reijmer used an article in the Volkskrant to turn on the latter. Her arguments made sense but were a little bit one-sided. Her stance is that a drugs policy based on fact, not moral prejudice, will lead to regulation of xtc and a reduction in the problems caused by this drug. Can it be that simple?Reijmer supports her argument for legalising xtc with a study by the public health institute RIVM in which a list of drugs is drawn up according to harmfulness. Xtc is relatively low on the list. That doesn’t mean it is a harmless substance. The risk of death from xtc is high enough not to allow the drug to be used...  More >

'No one has curtains at their windows'

‘No one seems to have curtains at their windows; I rather enjoy the voyeurism’ Russian national Anastasia Loginova, 29, works for a children's charity. She's been in the Netherlands for eight months and loves long cycle rides and thinks Amsterdam is a place of many layers, all waiting to be uncovered.How did you end up in the Netherlands? It was actually very un-Dutch and unplanned. While job hunting last summer, I reconnected with a high school friend who had just spent four years in Amsterdam and was preaching about the magic of the city. Moving to the Netherlands had not crossed my mind up to that point, but her stories intrigued me. Simultaneously, a position came up in her ex-company, a non-profit organisation called Child and Youth Finance International which facilitates financial education for children and youth around the world. Although it was not exactly my field (I have a background in art), I had the required skills and the cause greatly appealed to me.How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? Honestly,...  More >

Expatica’s International Job Fair returns

Expatica’s International Job Fair returns 30 May: Register now! Expatica’s International Job Fair returns for its fourth edition on Saturday, 30 May 2015. It’s the event for pursuing an international career in the Netherlands! Register online for a discount.Find your perfect job at Expatica's fair The International Job Fair serves both new and established members of the international community who are looking for a job in the Netherlands. The event will be an interactive extravaganza of companies looking to recruit internationals, workshops, and networking. If you register online, you can take advantage of our early-bird discount.The Dutch employment market Although hard to imagine in the current economic climate, particularly with the growing unemployment rate in the Netherlands, the shortage in the skilled and highly-educated workforces is expected to grow in the coming year(s). This is what the experts say abuot the subject:The Dutch Ministry of Health reports: "As in previous editions, the Dutch Health Care Performance Report 2014...  More >

Video: the power and poetry of water

Video: central Amsterdam under water in a poetic light display After having us cycle along starry night bike paths, Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde has now turned his attention to the power of water.Just over one quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level and the sea is kept at bay by a network of dykes, dams and other water defences. But what would happen if they weren't there?'Waterlicht is the dream landscape about the power and poetry of water,' Roosegaarde says on Studio Roosengaarde website. 'Innovation is within the DNA of the Dutch landscape via its waterworks and creative thinking, yet we almost seem to forgotten this.'The installation Waterlicht consists of wavy lines of light made with the latest LED technology, software and lenses. It was created for the Dutch Rijn & IJssel waterboard and was at the Museumplein in Amsterdam for three nights earlier this month.  More >