Friday 29 May 2020

Industry heavyweights to meet Rutte to discuss ‘soured debate’


Three Dutch corporate heavyweights are due to meet prime minister Mark Rutte on Thursday to discuss the soured relationship between politicians and industry, the Financieele Dagblad has reported.

The meeting is officially to discuss the Netherlands business climate but sources have told the paper that the deterioration in the way politicians and companies speak about each other will also have a role.

Jan Hommen, head of the supervisory board at Ahold-Delhaize, Philips supervisory board chief Jeroen van der Veer and Hans Wijers from ING will meet Rutte at his parliamentary offices.

‘It is a general meeting to talk about different subjects but it is also good to talk about the tone in recent weeks,’ the source said. The appointment was planned before Unilever announced it was scrapping the plan to consolidate its headquarter operations in Rotterdam.


Among the issues which have highlighted the souring relationship are the letter by ING supervisory board member Henk Breuking in the FD, in which he accused politicians of deliberately feeding mistrust of big corporations.

That prompted a savage retort from VVD MPs among others, who accused Breuking of not living in the real world.

And Unilever chief executive Paul Polman said last week that discussions about scrapping the dividend tax were one reason why the decision to move from London to Rotterdam had failed.

In particular, the way banks have responded to public concern have irritated MPs, the FD said.

‘Every attempt to normalise the relationship… would appear to be frustrated by ING,’ the paper said. ‘First came the cancellation of the pay rise for chief executive Ralph Hamers, then the money laundering scandal and now the insults from the board towards politicians.’

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