Monday 23 September 2019

Opinion pieces, columns and insights into Dutch news and current affairs from key commentators

‘Is it time for change in democracy as a new Senate takes its seats?’

‘Is it time for change in democracy as a new Senate takes its seats?’

Usually little attention is paid in the media to the election of the upper house of parliament in the Netherlands. The system is not quite as archaic as Britain’s House of Lords, but hardly an example of modern democracy, writes commentator Nicola Chadwick. The senate voting system is a complicated one. Generally the result can be predicted in advance, as the provincial councillors vote for their own party. However, residual votes from one party can be passed on to another... More >


‘Government leaves protection of online gamblers largely up to operators’

‘Government leaves protection of online gamblers largely up to operators’

The government’s proposed new gambling act is leaving the protection of gamblers largely in the hands of the gambling operators. Not a very good idea, according to gaming expert Sytze Kingma, lecturer at the VU Department of Organisation Sciences. The government wants to legalise internet gambling. It makes sense: hundreds of thousands of people are gambling on (illegal) foreign-based sites. Legalisation would make it easier to protect people from deception, fraud, whitewashing, match fixing and gambling addiction. It would also... More >


‘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... More >


‘The Dutch government needs to do more cost benefit analyses’

‘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... More >


‘Five job killers are destroying employment in the Netherlands’

‘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... More >


‘Moralising about drug use doesn’t help, but neither does trivialising the problems’

‘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.... More >


‘Councils are wasting public money with generous redundancy packages’

‘Councils are wasting public money with generous redundancy packages’

Local councils are wasting public money by giving over-generous and discriminatory severance packages to former staff, writes entrepreneur Annemarie van Gaal Last week the Financieele Dagblad reported that the province of Zeeland may be out of pocket to the tune of several million euros because former employees of the provincial civil service are demanding a better severance deal and have gone to court to get it. I find that shocking for more than one reason. In 2012, the provincial authorities... More >


‘Ban arrests of peaceful demonstrators’

‘Ban arrests of peaceful demonstrators’

Lawyer Willem Jebbink represents Abulkasim al-Jaberi, the man who was arrested recently for shouting ‘Fuck the king’, thereby committing lese majesty, which is still a punishable offence in the Netherlands. Jebbink thinks his arrest flies in the face of civil liberty. The prosecution of my client Abulkasim al-Jaberi for insulting the king and queen has generated much discussion about the archaic law that penalises lese majesty, and rightly so. We should ask ourselves if such a law is still relevant,... More >


‘A second opinion court to replace court verdict appeals’

‘A second opinion court to replace court verdict appeals’

Dutch judges are buckling under a heavy workload; perhaps it’s time to change the system, writes entrepreneur Annemarie van Gaal. The Netherlands is a fine country, with a fine justice system. We need to protect and nurture this system. But former Supreme Court president Geert Corstens has been warning for some time now that our judges are buckling under an increasingly heavy workload brought about by cutbacks. That makes sense, but the system itself is also to blame. In this... More >


‘The Dutch cabinet doesn’t concentrate on things that matter to voters’

‘The Dutch cabinet doesn’t concentrate on things that matter to voters’

The cabinet should prioritise issues that matter to voters, such as the rampant unemployment among the over-45s, write economists Willem Vermeend and Rick van der Ploeg. In the past few years, people’s confidence in politics has plummeted to an all-time low, not only because promises haven’t been kept, but also because the country had no less than five cabinets in the space of ten years, and, currently, 16 parliamentary parties. In addition, citizens are wondering when politicians are going to... More >


New path in The Hague is a reminder of Indonesia’s shame

New path in The Hague is a reminder of Indonesia’s shame

When Jozias van Aartsen, the mayor of The Hague, unveiled the Munirpad (Munir Path) in a quiet neighbourhood on April 14, he did more than honour the slain Indonesian human rights defender Munir Thalib, writes Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch. The naming of the Munirpad was also an uncomfortable reminder to the Indonesian government of its failure to bring to justice those who had ordered Munir’s killing on September 7, 2004. Munir’s widow, Suciwati, told reporters before she left... More >


‘Coalition partners leant so far they almost tipped the balance’

‘Coalition partners leant so far they almost tipped the balance’

The coalition partners agreed to disagree when Labour leader Diederik Samsom told a party conference his party would be leaning as far as it could to the left. At the same time, comments by VVD parliamentary leader Halbe Zijlstra showed the Dutch liberals are leaning as far as possible to the right. In doing so they almost tipped the balance, writes commentator Nicola Chadwick. The position of the current cabinet became extremely precarious this week as the two parties took 10 days to reach... More >


‘Libraries need to be closed or made relevant again’

‘Libraries need to be closed or made relevant again’

All entrepreneur Annemarie van Gaal sees are empty libraries. The money spent on them could be put to better use, she writes. The Netherlands is keeping afloat lots of institutions which used to be relevant but now hardly have any added value. Take the public libraries. Every time I pass a library I see empty spaces with endless book cases. Every once in a while a lone student is sitting at a table pouring over his school books or his... More >


‘Big companies could do more to put Dutch start-ups on the map’

‘Big companies could do more to put Dutch start-ups on the map’

Big companies don’t have the guts to work with ambitious newcomers, nor do enough venture capitalists to invest in start-ups, writes entrepreneur Roebyem Anders. According to start-up Delta director Sigris Johannisse Dutch start-ups are thinking small. They have to develop an attitude or else they will never find a big investor to turn them into world players. I beg to diiffer. It’s the big companies who could do more to put start-ups on the map. Dutch start-ups are bursting with... More >


‘More women at the top? A database alone is not going to do the job’

‘More women at the top? A database alone is not going to do the job’

Education minister Jet Bussemaker is right to want more women in top jobs, but a database is not the way to achieve this, write executive search entrepreneurs Carien van der Laan and Monique de Vos. Full marks to education minister Jet Bussemaker’s wish to increase the presence of women in the boardrooms of this country. Aware of the issues surrounding the appointment of women in top executive functions, she is anxious to speed up the process. But setting up a... More >


‘Uber and its like are not hip and innovative’

‘Uber and its like are not hip and innovative’

We shouldn’t hail Uber as a model of innovative entrepreneurship. WalMart should be a warning to us all, writes Daan Brouwer. There are quite a few politicians and economists who are in favour of total entrepreneurial freedom for businesses, investors and speculators. Eager to point out the pros, any harmful long-term cons this might have for a majority of citizens are overlooked. Advocates are outnumbering objectors, that much is clear from the current trend towards low wages, the scrapping of... More >


Bureaucratic maze stifles small businesses

Bureaucratic maze stifles small businesses

The social insurance system is confusing and expensive for small firms, says entrepreneur Annemarie van Gaal. Unemployment is down slightly, but with over 633,000 people out of work we are still nudging our old 1980s record. Add to this the enormous number of self-employed and entrepreneurs who, while not unemployed, are struggling to make ends meet and you realise that we are facing a very big problem. The economy is recovering but this is not reflected in the employment figures.... More >


What did our elders ever do for us? They spent more on education for one thing.

What did our elders ever do for us? They spent more on education for one thing.

What has distinguished one Dutch cabinet from another over the years? Economist Mathijs Bouman goes down memory lane. Last Thursday Piet de Jong became a centenarian. The submarine commander turned prime minister took the helm between April 5 1967 and July 6 1971. In the year he stepped down, Mark Rutte and Jeroen Dijsselbloem went to kindergarten. Halbe Zijlstra celebrated his second birthday. Diederik Samsom was born four days later and Lodewijk Asscher wasn’t even a twinkle in his father’s... More >


Insurers, start looking after patients instead of agonising over budgets

Insurers, start looking after patients instead of agonising over budgets

District nurses are hurrying from one patient to another, frantically consulting overlong checklists. Labour leader Diederik Samsom tells insurers to stop agonising over budgets and concentrate on providing appropriate care. For six months now I have been working alongside home healthcare workers on a weekly basis. I experienced at first-hand the dedication and professionalism with which they do their jobs. I also watched with bated breath the revolution that is taking place in care. The checklists and government protocols which... More >


A once liberal party is now known for money-grubbing

A once liberal party is now known for money-grubbing

It’s been a changing of the guard for the VVD since the provincial elections, but why are so many of the party’s prominent politicians involved in grubby dealings? asks Nicola Chadwick. Firstly the new minister of justice Ard van de Steur and his junior minister Klaas Dijkhof were installed. They were reportedly not the first choice as apparently a number of candidates turned down the honour. Was it because they did not want to burn their fingers on the wasp... More >