Vermeend & Van der Ploeg: The (other) Dutch eleven

Economists Willem Vermeend and Rick van der Ploeg think the miserable outlook of the Dutch is not helping the economy. That is why they have come up with Power Eleven. Pessimists and Jeremiahs, take note.


The European Union’s economy is in trouble. Many countries are facing economic shrinkage and increasing unemployment and the Netherlands is no exception. Although the emphasis is still firmly on the need to reduce the deficit and national debt, European governments are increasingly and propitiously attempting to stimulate the economy. Extra growth will lead to jobs and revenue, both of which are needed to bring down the deficit.

Most countries lack the resources to kick-start new growth. According to the European Commission, the road to recovery is in the hands of the entrepreneur. If businesses do well, economic growth will follow. ‘Small and medium-sized businesses are the motor of economic growth’, say Brussels officials, and entrepreneurship should be stimulated across the board. We agree. It can’t happen without government support, however. It won’t have to cost much.

The biggest problem businesses are struggling with is the dip in the demand for goods and services. That is why now is not a good time for further cutbacks. Apart from an oxygen-starved economy, entrepreneurs are being faced with a state bureaucracy of Byzantine proportions coupled with an administrative burden partly caused by European regulations. New businesses fail to get off the ground for lack of finance and labour market related problems. Here, too, governments and Brussels will have to come up with solutions that will help European entrepreneurs on their way.

A country of doom merchants and Jeremiahs

The problems encountered by entrepreneurs are being compounded by the fact that the Netherlands’ image abroad is one of all-pervading negativity, not something which will help the economy perk up. The media and the internet show a country populated by doom merchants, moaners, pessimists, worriers and Jeremiahs. The Netherlands also has a reputation for telling others off. The other European members are heartily sick of having an admonishing Dutch finger waved under their noses. It’s an unfortunate and unprofitable habit and it must stop. The moaning and the glass-half- empty attitude must also stop. That is why we proudly present the so-called Power Eleven of the Netherlands. These represent the strong points of our country, the things that have earned us an excellent international reputation and of which we are justifiably proud. They also show that we have what it takes to polder our way out of the recession.    

Pessimists and Jeriamiahs, take note:

Our Power Eleven


  1. This tiny country of 17 million inhabitants belongs to the top twenty of world economies. We are currently in 17th place.
  2. We live in a wonderful country. We rank number 3 in the list of the world’s best countries to live after Norway and Australia
  3. The social-cultural policy unit SCP’s  World Misery Index      puts us at the bottom of the list. Our country is the least miserable of all the countries in the world.
  4. In the world ranking of competitive economies 2012-2013, the Netherlands occupied fifth place, leaving in its wake such countries as Germany, the United States and England. That is a formidable achievement.
  5. Our country is in the top three of Europe’s ‘richest’ countries. On the list of countries by GDP per capita we come in second after Luxemburg. And in terms of purchasing power parity we are outflanked only by Luxemburg and Norway.
  6. The Netherlands is among the top ranking exporting countries. We are the seventh largest exporter in the world. In Europe, only Germany exports more.
  7. We are the seventh largest investors in the world.
  8. The Dutch health care system is the best in the world.
  9. Last year, the Dutch pension system was voted second-best in the world. Denmark came in at number 1.
  10. The Netherlands is in the top ten of countries with the best education and the happiest people.
  11. And last but by no means least: Dutch children are the happiest in the world. They  rank very highly when it comes to the use of internet (

No reason to lean back

Our list is not meant as an encouragement to lean back and do nothing. On the contrary, if we don’t act now we run the risk of ending up outside the top ten of every international list. We are already losing ground when it comes to innovation and our environment policies lag woefully behind compared to other European countries. The number of unemployed is increasing as well. We have to protect our strong points. Our prosperity depends on it.

Rick van der Ploeg is professor of economics at the University of Oxford and adjunct professor of economics at the VU University.

Willem Vermeend is an internet entrepreneur and professor of economics and e-business at the Maastricht School of Management (MSM).


This article was published earlier in the Financial Telegraaf



Thank you for donating to

We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.

Make a donation